February 18, 2009
When I first arrived at my hotel in Windy City, I noticed that that the park across the street was filled with -- well, I wasn't sure what. I could see what seemed to be square objects, each the size of a toolshed, wrapped in tarps that flapped in the wind. During a morning walk, I went over to investigate. The objects turned out to be huge blocks of snow. And a truck was dumping more snow at the end of the sidewalk. Yes, in a total reverse of the snow removal process that I've come to know well in Snowstorm City, this dumptruck was delivering snow to the middle of the city. You just never know what crazy happenings you're going to see in a big city. I love that.
The next time I walked by, artists had arrived with tools and ladders to carve these blocks of snow into sculptures. I stopped to talk to one artist, a bearded man in a flannel shirt, who said the warm sun was a problem. He said that most of the sculptors were waiting for the temperatures to drop. They would stay up most of the night, carving at the snow and filing icy corners. They had a deadline for their art: noon the next day. When I went past later on my way to lunch, I saw a camera crew gathered near the sculptures. A team of huskies was pulling a professionally dressed woman who was trying to balance on a sled while talking cheerfully into a microphone about the sculpture contest.
By the next evening, when I came through with my friends at night, portable spotlights shone on finished sculptures. A small crowd had gathered. On a makeshift half-pipe that was really more like quarter-pipe, local kids were trying snowboarding tricks, their boards clattering as they hit the rails or crashed against fencing. We walked around in the darkness to look at the sculptures, arguing about which one we liked best. One of the snow sculptures — an anatomically correct heart — had not survived the thaw and had crashed to the ground in pieces, ironically, on Valentine’s Day.
Posted by jo(e)