Surrounded by a sea of familiar mall storefronts - Waldenbooks, Toys 'R' Us, Dick's Sporting Goods - is the sand. Fifteen tons of it.
Smack-dab in the middle of the Centre at Glen Burnie is a rising 9-foot-tall sculpture, an ode to the mascots of Maryland sports.
Noted sculptor Ted Siebert is working in the courtyard this week, with a shovel, wheelbarrow, and artists' knives to carve out a giant Baltimore oriole, a Maryland terrapin and three Ravens, just in time for tomorrow's NFL playoff game against the Indianapolis Colts at M&T; Bank Stadium.
For football fans bent on seeing the Ravens banish the Colts forevermore from the city they fled under cover of night 23 years ago, the sculpture is another morale booster.
In other words, the wounds are still fresh, but sand on them is sweet.
Siebert, head of Illinois-based The Sand Sculpture Co., said he travels the world for business clients that, like the Centre at Glen Burnie, are seeking ways to enliven commonplace shopping center courtyards.
His arrival the week of the great grudge game is just lucky, but he's accommodating Ravens fever, adding two additional bird figures to accurately depict the team's three mascots - Edgar, Allan and Poe.
David Richter, 24, and Chris Thompson, 19, of Curtis Bay stopped to stare at the ravens' piercing eyes.
The two said they were too young to watch the old Colts play. Still, the sculpture somehow reminded them of "stealing the hopes of old Baltimore," Thompson said.
"I'm going to be there," Richter said fiercely, as if he were ready for a rumble. The mall's general manager, Mark Seaman, also watching Siebert work in his fence-enclosed space, joined in the sports banter.
"I'm just so thankful Ted's not from Indianapolis," Seaman said.
Seaman, 43, grew up within walking distance of the now-gone Memorial Stadium on E. 33rd St., which was home to the Colts.
He brought in Siebert for an unspecified price. The cost of Siebert's work starts at about $4,000, including expenses, the artist said.
Watching the sculptures take shape in the mall, newly strung with Ravens-purple lights, is as much of an attraction as the finished product.
"It's great to see 15 tons of sand wheel-barrowed in and a week later, a work of art," Seaman said. "The mall walkers are excited."
Siebert said the basis of his work is strong drawing skills, though he makes creation of his sculptures look as easy as building sandcastles. In fact, that's how he got his start two decades ago - entering sandcastle events on the Oregon coastline.
Today his company holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest hand-shoveled sand sculpture - a 24 foot creations that involved 92 hours of labor, according to the company Web site.
If you ask Siebert why he chose sand as his medium instead of more permanent materials like wood, bronze or marble, he has a ready answer.
"I'm always chasing the summer," Siebert, 48, said with a laugh. Now established after struggling in his 20s and early 30s, he said: "An art teacher said I'd never make a living. I showed him."
Yet at times he leaves a job or a sculpting competition wistfully, whether it is in Capetown, South Africa, or the Canary Islands: "You wish you could bottle it up and take it home with you."
Because of sand's ephemeral nature, the contemporary artist preserves the record of his work in pictures.
His indoor work, made of sand and water that creates an adobe texture, can stand for months or years, he said.
His Ravens piece will take about five days to complete. It is not clear how long it will remain up.
Siebert's next stop is a New York trade show, where he will build another symbol befitting its setting: an 8-foot sculpture of the Statue of Liberty.