By Clai Watkins
Carrboro Commons Staff Writer
A sand sculpture by Rik Hermanson sits in the front corner of the Weaver Street Market lawn. Hermanson has been displaying his unique art work at “the Weave” since it opened 20 years ago.
Whether the art is a parade float, a totem pole or a sand sculpture, Weaver Street Market customers always can plan to see something unexpected in Hermanson’s work. “My nature is to always get wilder,” explains Hermanson.
Hermanson, a Greensboro native, is a self-taught artist and painter who, before moving to Chatham County, lived in Carrboro for 36 years. He has become a familiar face for Weaver Street Market customers – and not just because of his distinguishing dreadlocks. Benjamin Brodey of Chapel Hill shops regularly at Weaver Street Market and has watched Hermanson construct art on the grocery’s lawn before. Brodey says diversity is one of the things that he enjoys so much at Weaver Street Market and that Hermanson’s work really “adds character to the area.”
The sand sculpture that celebrates Weaver Street Market’s 20th anniversary has two very different and distinct sides. Damian Hoffman carved the side that is Weaver Street Market’s birthday party. Hermanson carved the back side, which is a whole tribe of starving Africans. According to Hermanson, even though Weaver Street Market is celebrating its 20th anniversary, it is important not to forget about all of the people in the world who are starving to death.
The sand sculpture that is currently displayed on the lawn at Weaver Street Market is by no means the first of its kind. Hermanson has created numerous controversial sand sculptures that are all distinct and provoking. Among his collection are a Sept. 11 memorial, an angry developer bulldozing away a castle, and a tribe of starving Indians with one, what Hermanson calls, “bulimic” pilgrim.
When asked about her favorite piece done by Hermanson, Cat Moleski, who does public relations for Weaver Street Market, recalls how moving Hermanson’s Sept. 11 sand memorial was seven years ago. The sculpture showed the Statue of Liberty being knocked down by an airplane and nearby firemen and policemen supporting the flame of liberty.
A totem pole made out of pumpkins was Hermanson’s first piece of art for Weaver Street Market. He explains how difficult this project always is due to the quick-rotting nature of pumpkins once they are carved.
Many locals will remember huge, bright floats that Hermanson has crafted for Carrboro and Chapel Hill Christmas parades.
Throughout his 20 years working with Weaver Street Market, water restrictions have proven to be the only thing strong enough to keep Hermanson away. For the most part, though, Hermanson has strategically packed sand together for the Market through good times and through bad times.
Although he used to be on the Weaver Street Market lawn almost every day, Hermanson, who is almost 60 years old, does not have as much time for his old stomping grounds any more. For the past 7 ½ years, Hermanson has been building a legacy for himself in the form of a garden. “It is totally my masterpiece,” says Hermanson of his current project “Uncommon Garden” located in Chapel Hill.
Hermanson’s garden is no ordinary walk in the park. The half-acre backyard is filled with hand-crafted surprises in every nook – dragons, caves, ponds, arches, lights and an infinity pool. There is seating for up to 150 people and plenty of spots for meditation and reflection.
Hermanson claims just to be “winging it” when it comes to his art. His garden project will soon be complete and who knows what is next. Another over-the-top, fantasyland garden? Hermanson seems to think that another project like this would be hard to come by – “it’s gonna take a multi-millionaire.”
With the completion of “Uncommon Garden,” Hermanson may have more time to spend on art projects at Weaver Street Market. Hermanson plans to get back into painting houses, too. Hermanson says with a chuckle, “If you know of anyone who needs their bathroom painted, tell them to give me a call.”