Leap Sandcastle Classic builds support for art education


Maddy Ting

Each team at the Leap Sandcastle Classic designs their sandcastle ahead of time using clay.

The sun shines brightly overhead as children and adults toil beside the ocean waves, working together to create beautiful sand sculptures in honor of the Leap Sandcastle Classic.

On Nov. 3, the art education organization Leap hosted their annual Leap Sandcastle Classic at Ocean Beach in San Francisco. Every year, the event’s main attraction is a sandcastle building contest with live music providing additional entertainment.

The Leap Sandcastle Classic was created 36 years ago by Leap, a nonprofit organization aimed towards supporting Bay Area schools without sufficient art education.

“Back in 1979, [the government] cut funding for arts and other enrichment programs in schools, so organizations like ours were formed to help fill that gap,” said Jill Dineen, the executive director of Leap.

Maddy Ting

Leap specifically works with schools who typically don’t get the chance to experience such a program.

“Our mission is to provide quality arts education for Bay Area students that would otherwise not have access to that education,” said Victoria Arango, a board member.

Dineen and Arango, along with the rest of their organization, firmly believe in the importance of art.

“All of us at Leap have an arts background, and we know that the arts help shape us, mold us, and save our lives in a lot of ways. We want to make sure kids have that same opportunity in school,” Dineen said.

The Sandcastle Classic is one of the many ways Leap raises awareness and money for their mission. The event revolves around teams made up of art and architecture companies collaborating with schools to create sandcastles. In addition to planning the sculptures ahead of time, schools are also in charge of collecting donations from their sponsors: the art and architecture firms.

“We [the firms] just donate the money. We don’t even raise the money because we want to focus on spending time with the kids,” said Francesca Oliveira, a sponsor. “We actually spend all of our time specifically working with them and teaching them about what we do in our profession.”

The team sponsors not only donate to Leap, but they also help educate the students in construction and art techniques to prepare them for the contest.

“Typically, we work with a group of architects and constructional engineering firms, and they do a series of three classes with the students first to get them ready for this actual day,” said Stephanie Li, a third-grade teacher at McCoppin Elementary School.

The skills that the students learn from the sponsors act as a substitute for the missing art programs.

“The kids use clay and they paint and draw, so they’re using all of the art techniques before they arrive here today so they can see their design come to life,” Dineen said.

While planning the structure of their sandcastle, the teams incorporate the theme of the Leap Sandcastle Classic into their creation, which varies from year to year.

“Our theme this year is ‘building bridges,’ which doesn’t mean just physical bridges,” Dineen said. “Because there’s so much division in our country right now, we really wanted to speak to how we can cross divides and better connect with each other.”

Pullquote Photo

Because there’s so much division in our country right now, we really wanted to speak to how we can cross divides and better connect with each other.”

— Jill Dineen

Throughout the contest, judges inspect the sandcastles, taking into account the design, detail, integration of the theme, and team participation of each.

“The judges are a variety of different backgrounds, so we have folks who are involved in education and in the arts. They’re people who are connected to the overall mission of Leap, which is something that is very important for us,” said Carson Oliver, a board member.

One of the judges was Todd Berman, a San Francisco artist, activist, and advocate for art education.

“It was very tough to judge,” Berman said. “There were so many great ideas with great teamwork and great execution. It was wonderful.”

At 2:30 p.m, a blast from a horn echoed over the sand, signaling an end to the contest.

During the awards ceremony, Frances Freska Griarte, the Afternoon Drive Personality at 96.5 KOIT, asked the audience, “Is art important to schools?”

The crowd responded with cheers, whistles, and calls of “Yes,” showing support for art education.

Though the 2018 Leap Sandcastle Classic has concluded, Leap continues to work towards their goal of providing an art education for all Bay Area students.