Leaving Art All Over

03 Jul 2024

Columbus County man brings his work to the beach and sharpens vision for Grahamland

By Judy Royal  »  Photos by Alexandra Charitan

If you’ve traveled along Highway 74 between Leland and Whiteville, chances are you’ve noticed the yard full of large fiberglass statues on the north side of the road that seems to come out of nowhere outside of Bolton in Columbus County. This is Grahamland, and Hubert Graham is the artist behind all the work you see there. He’s a man full of ideas and thinks he’s in the right phase of life to finally execute them. 

Since his retirement from Corning in 2021, Graham has gone full speed ahead with his passion for creating and hopes he can get others excited about his vision.

“It’s hard to concentrate on your dream when you’re working on someone else’s dream,” he says. “This is the time for Grahamland to explode and expand. Redundancy does nothing for your brain. When you’re out creating stuff, you are challenging yourself mentally and physically. That makes life a lot more meaningful. It makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something.”

One of his latest efforts brings his work a little closer to home here in the Wilmington area. Graham recently worked with Island Arts Council to fabricate a Venus Flytrap sculpture that was unveiled at the Carolina Beach Town Hall in April as part of the Venus Flytrap on Parade project to celebrate the town’s centennial in 2025. Local artists Susan Nuttall, Rhonda Lee, and Bruce Troutman collaborated with Graham on designing the sculpture, which will be made into a mold so the work of art can be replicated for other artists to paint and display in public next year. 

“I’m excited to be working on this project because I’ll be leaving art all over,” Graham says. “This is one of the most powerful projects because everybody goes to the beach.”

The partnership has been about six years in the making, when Island Arts Council President Chris Higgins stopped by Grahamland to meet Graham and discuss the possibility of working together. As the centennial year drew closer and Island Arts Council grew its membership, more interest and funds were available to make a sculpture project happen.

“When I found Hubert and met with him, it was really exciting to be able to find someone local who could do this,” Higgins says. “He knows the area, he knows the community, and he knows how we value the Venus Flytrap.”

The Carolina Beach project is just one of the many things Graham has going on these days. He’s also busy building upon the dream that started in 1993 when he decided to make some metal lighthouses to illuminate his property after a break-in. The material didn’t hold up well during a hailstorm, however, so Graham decided he needed something more durable and eventually ran across Bill Sharpe of Rocky Mount, who built lighthouses from fiberglass and began teaching the trade and selling molds to Graham.

“I love being able to create things, the creativity of making things with your own hands,” Graham says. “As far as fiberglass, the first time I pulled up to Bill Sharpe’s place I fell in love with it. Once I smelled resin, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do.”

In addition to the fiberglass animals and other sculptures, in the past few months Grahamland has added an ice cream shop, a hot dog cart, and an amusement park ride and plans to soon incorporate mini golf, bounce houses, slides/swings, and more rides.

“It’s more of an amusement-type area, and that’s the next phase of this thing,” Graham says. “It’s all about making people happy because so many people are depressed and going through problems right now. They don’t have to call 988. They can go to Grahamland.”

Grahamland sits on the property where Graham was born in 1961 that his parents eventually passed down to him. He was living in the house there for many years when it was flooded by Hurricane Florence in 2018. Graham has since moved to another residence and is awaiting a buyout from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Once this happens, he would like to buy a bigger piece of property – possibly the old Acme-Delco Middle School – not only for an entertainment venue but also for a recycling center that helps remove abandoned boats from waterways and repurpose the fiberglass and other materials into new products, including his statues. Graham also foresees offering apprenticeship programs at a larger site, and he hopes to put together an advisory board and fundraiser to help him reach his goal.

“This is about recycling,” Graham says. “I want to focus on saving the environment with product coming in the door instead of going into the landfill. Most people retire and don’t have anything in the world to do, but I want to leave an impact.”

Want to go?

Grahamland, located at 24605 Andrew Jackson Highway East in Bolton, is open daily 10am-8pm; call 910-427-3324 for more details.

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