THUNDER BAY - Spending more than 30 hours carving, shaving, chiseling, and filing snow into a beautiful work of art only to watch it slowly melt away may seem tragic to some, but not the artists.
“It’s part of the beauty of it,” said sculptor Eric Heitman of Calgary. “Things start and things end and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.”
Dozens of sculptors from the city and beyond have been busy at Prince Arthur’s Landing carving works of art out of snow that will be on display for SnowDay on Monday.
This year’s theme is transportation and Heitman, along with Alia Shahad, also of Calgary, and Michel Gignac of Whitehorse, have been working since last Thursday on a sculpture of a 1950s pick-up truck with a large stalk of corn in the bed.
“We decided to go with food because they are connected at such an obvious level that it is sometimes overlooked,” Heitman said. “But considering things will probably be changing soon, the way we transport things, and how much we transport.”
Local sculptor Michael O’Connor and his team decided to create a voyageur atop the waves. For O’Connor, who has been carving for more than seven years, working with snow offers something no other medium does.
“It’s large scale, it’s easy to carve, when it’s all white and when the sun hits it you get a lot of shadow play, it’s a really nice medium,” he said.
And looking around to see all the other massive sculptures taking shape and how the festival has grown is really exciting for O’Connor and his team.
“They’re gorgeous,” he said. “It’s always been local, but this year we have a team from Calgary and from the states, so the word is getting out.”
With backgrounds in sculpture, this is only the second snow sculpture festival Heitman, Shahad, and Gignac have participated in, having taken up the medium just last year.
And they are learning that working with snow does present some challenges, particularly in its pesky colour.
“When you want to show shadows or lines, you have to do very noticeable accents and details so they come through,” he said. “It’s easy for details to disappear in the whiteness of the snow.”
But all the hard work is worth it in the end, not just for the large crowds who come out to see and enjoy the work, but for the artist, because when one work of art fades away, it just means it’s time to start another.
“Being able to do something of this scale is super exciting,” Heitman said. “Plus, it’s fun to work with a material that is ephemeral. There is something very relaxing in a way about that, just knowing you are putting in that work and that it’s going to end and we get to do it again later.”