Chilling out New exhibit to bring ice sculptures downtown

Winnipeggers will soon be able to enjoy new works of art downtown — but they won’t last forever.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/01/2022 (508 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeggers will soon be able to enjoy new works of art downtown — but they won’t last forever.

That’s because the sculptures will be made of ice.

The new exhibit, called Winter Wanderland, is a joint venture of Downtown Winnipeg BIZ and Sputnik Architecture.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Internationally renowned Ice Architect Luca Roncoroni shaves ice for a creation last January.

Slabs of ice, each measuring about two by three metres, will be mined out of the frozen Red River, deposited in various locations downtown and turned into 11 works of art. Tentative locations include the Millennium Library, True North Sqaure and the Alt Hotel.

Lawrence Bird, of Sputnik Architecture, said artists expect to be harvesting the ice next week, and carving the blocks shortly after.

“We’re actually ahead of where we thought we would be,” Bird said Wednesday. “We thought we wouldn’t be on the river until February but it has been so cold and the ice is thick.

“This is the kind of weather we pray for. We’re happy to get them out early so they can be out longer.”

Bird said Sputnik has been working with artists and ice sculptors for about a decade on the popular river skating trail before expanding to various parts of the city last year.

This year, the firm and Winnipeg BIZ will focus on the downtown.

Sculptures will vary in sizes, and lights will be installed in each so “the whole block will light up like a light bulb”.

“People were cutting ice out of the river 100 years ago to keep ice boxes cold so this is like a return to history,” said Bird.

“We think this is a way to embrace the cold weather we have around us.”

Chris Pancoe, a multi-media artist and ceramic and sculpture technician at the University of Manitoba’s School of Art, is looking forward to crafting a work from solid ice.

“Both with ice and snow, the sculpting happens pretty quickly,” said Pancoe. “You’re taking material away so whatever you end with is smaller than the block you started off with. You’re not using a chisel or hammer like with stone or wood. You’re essentially carving water so figuring out an idea ahead of time is great because it is done so quickly.

Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press Files A young skater examines an ice sculpture on the River Trail at The Forks.

“It is a seductive medium and when you come across a big ice block — and one that comes from the river — it is great. There are no bubbles in it and it freezes perfectly.”

Pancoe said freezing was a different story last year when the BIZ sponsored ‘Snowfa’, an event for which artists created works you could sit on. He said they were working against the normal elements of a Winnipeg winter.

“We had such a freakishly warm winter, we were carving while watching it melt,” he said. “We won’t have that problem this year.”

Pam Hardman, spokeswoman for the Winnipeg BIZ, said it’s hoping the venture will bring people downtown.

“Businesses are finding it tough right now,” Hardman said. “We really wanted to add something to encourage people to come downtown and buy a hot chocolate or find a business they had never seen before.

“Winnipeg is a winter city and people are looking for things to do outside — especially during a pandemic.”

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.


Updated on Thursday, January 13, 2022 2:04 PM CST: Corrects location to read True North Square

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