We stood amongst the growing crowd. All out and about in Central Park on the Saturday afternoon, unfazed by gloomy winter weather. Sidling our way toward the center of the action, we aimed for a closer look.
“How do you even realize you have talent for this?” Miranda mused, “You know, maybe we have scores of latent, untapped talent for ice sculpting, and we just don’t know it.”
“You’re right!” I giggled, “But I’m afraid we lack the passion. Or at the very least the endurance for cold temperatures.”
“Do you think these guys attended a wedding at a young age, saw an ice sculpture of swans or something, and this was the dream ever since?”
How does one end up on the ice sculpting career path? I have no idea. How does one end up in the park watching ice sculptors do their thing? Well, there are only so many outside winter events in NYC. When you resolve to not stay inside all winter, you better attend any outdoor event that sounds vaguely interesting. Besides, when are you going to have another opportunity to watch artists sculpt ice?
The backdrop was Bethesda Fountain, one of my favorite spots in Central Park. This major destination in the warmer months becomes deserted in the winter. The water is shut off, the pond freezes over, bits of trash become encased in sheets of ice. Unless you’re a dedicated jogger or dog walker, there’s little reason to pass by. Unless Central Park Conservancy is hosting an Ice Festival! Then you have the perfect excuse to make Bethesda Terrace a winter destination!
The area was mobbed. Despite the crowds and temperature lows, everyone was in high spirits. The line for coffee, a necessity at 12PM on a 40 degree day, was long and took 20 minutes of waiting. This would typically send a New Yorker into grumbling crankiness. Maybe there’s something about fresh air and witnessing grown men chainsaw ice into butterflies. I swear, every one in that line was having a good day. We made friends with the hipsters standing in front of us, together bemoaned the fact it was too cold for an Affogato (espresso over ice cream).
The friendliness of those watching was damn near unsettling. I expect New York cliché! We all stood watching the sculptors from the Okamoto Studio. No one pushed, no one bitched about someone stepping on their feet, no one told me and Miranda to shut up as we carried on a conversation about the start of her school semester. No, instead a woman joined in the conversation, telling us how she is studying anatomy and about her daughter, who she was saving a spot for by the enclosing fence.
Maybe in January, when all the tourists are gone, when everything is gray, when events and jobs are at a record low, maybe this is when New Yorkers bond together. We are nice to each other, as we all endure this miserable month. We appreciate the beauty the city supplies, for once it’s not all around us. In this month where we unable to take the joys of NYC for granted. So we are forced to notice them. It’s good for us, builds character. We must do all in our power to resist or seasonal depression is imminent.
So we watch grown men chainsaw ice into butterflies, birds, and stags. Seriously, a chainsaw is one of the critical tools of the trade. We get excited when they start work on an untouched piece of ice- what will it be? Watching the artists consult sketches, the subject is obvious. Perfect for the venue. We leave before she is complete, brunch and unlimited sangria beckon us, but we stayed long enough to see the ice version of the Bethesda Fountain angel take shape. To marvel at the delicate precision of her frozen facial features. Stay too long, and we would’ve had to watch her melt away. All that work for something so temporary. I would say I don’t understand it, but really you could say the exact same thing about theatre!
Have you ever seen an ice sculpture? I hadn’t really before! To be hones, I associated ice sculptures with gaudy centerpieces at over priced weddings. So glad this Ice Festival made me see what an art form ice sculpting can be! If you google “ice sculpture” there are works that will blow your mind!