Art Inspiring Action

Written By: 
Harold Rohrback

Jim Swaim, pictured here with his Environmental Sculptures artwork that also serve as trash containers.

Chances are that you’ve seen his work before. For more than 30 years, Jim Swaim was in the entertainment industry, using his talents to create sets, build stages and manage productions. Lured by Calvin Gilmore to make his home on the Grand Strand more than 20 years ago, he left his hometown of Kernersville, N.C., and has worked extensively for The Carolina Opry and The Alabama Theatre. Nationally, he has collaborated on projects with NBC and Saturday Night Live. Every time you see snow falling during a scene on SNL, the snow is being dropped by a machine designed and built by Swaim.

His talent for creating visual art had been limited to show business, but he was yearning to find an outlet in which to incorporate his love of nature. Five years ago he met with Patrick Kelly, who was holding the first Earth Day trash cleanup effort on the Intracoastal Waterway called River Sweep. Swaim came up with the idea to construct a wire sculpture that could then be filled with the collected trash and permanently displayed as artwork at the boat ramp. He built a large dolphin and Environmental Sculptures was born. Later that year he attended a show in Charleston about the environmental impact of pollution on animals given by Jack Hanna. After the presentation, he showed a picture of his dolphin sculpture to Hanna, who loved the concept and introduced him to Sarah Miles with Palmetto Pride. All of a sudden Swaim had an order for 20 sculptures to be displayed across South Carolina and the demand has continued from coast to coast.

With longtime friend Paul Quirk using his knowledge and expertise to turn imagination into reality, Environmental Sculptures was poised to achieve Swaim’s dream “to create visual art that will increase awareness and inspire action to appreciate and protect our environment.” Recent Coastal Carolina graduate Baldwin Hall also assisted in setting up a website, along with developing marketing strategies. The game plan for his art to encourage stewardship of the Earth is simple: First, engage citizens by organizing volunteers to participate in a community trash clean up. Second, have the participants fill the sculpture with the litter and trash collected. Third, the community celebrates with the permanent installation of the sculpture where it stands as a lasting reminder to keep our environment litter-free.

Jim Swaim is passionate about doing what he can with the talents and gifts he possesses to ensure that a vibrant, healthy environment will be here for his six children and 17 grandchildren, as well as yours. This can’t be completed without efforts and partnerships with individuals and communities.

For more information you can contact Jim Swaim at (843) 283-3707 or through www.environmentalsculptures.com.

Resources: 

PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF JIM SWAIM AND LITTLE RIVER RIVER SWEEP