Seeing YK residents smash up his art ‘kicks ass,’ says US ice carver

An ice carving of a viking falls to the ground after being struck by a sledgehammer
An ice carving of a viking falls to the ground after being struck by a sledgehammer. Jesse Wheeler/Cabin Radio

A Philadelphia ice carver who competed at this year’s Inspired Ice in Yellowknife has backed the organizers’ decision to let local residents dismantle his art with sledgehammers.

Don Lowing, who created a viking alongside Chicago’s Dan Rebholz for fifth place in the contest, told Cabin Radio “it kicks ass in every way” to see Yellowknifers breaking up his artwork at the event’s conclusion.

Long John Jamboree festival organizers said the ice sculptures had to come down for safety reasons and to comply with their insurance policy. This year, residents could enter a draw for $5 to win the chance to knock down the carvings.

Lowing contacted Cabin Radio after reading an earlier article reporting complaints about the sculptures being demolished, in which a fellow competing carver labelled the action ‘disappointing’ and another carver, who was not involved in the event, said smashing up the carvings was a ‘disgrace’.



Speaking by phone, Lowing said: “Why are people offended? I’m a sculptor and it’s just a fun way to do it, if it has to come down.

“Otherwise they just take a loader and drive over it and it’s gone, which is boring. This at least gets people involved, it raises a bit of cash, it’s an event.”

‘Nothing feels better’

Organizers have faced criticism for claiming the ice carvings had to be dismantled on safety grounds, but allowing individuals to attack the artworks with sledgehammers with few apparent safety measures visible in footage.

“Participants were supervised and signed up as Jamboree volunteers after winning the raffle,” Jamboree executive director Nancy MacNeill told Cabin Radio.



“Next year, we’ll definitely include safety hats and eye protection.”

Lowing, who has twice appeared as an Inspired Ice sculptor, said he would happily join in himself if invited back in future.

“I’ve done it to my own [work] and nothing feels better than a sledgehammer to ice,” said Lowing.

“I wish I could have taken it down myself, but I’m glad somebody else did and I’m glad somebody from the town was able to do that. The whole point is community and to have fun.

“I wouldn’t do it any other way – and I got to watch it,” he said, referring to video published by Cabin Radio.

“I saw the video, and was like, ‘Oh, awesome, they showed our piece coming down.’ I liked the girl afterwards who said, ‘That was awesome.’

“To me that’s the whole magic of this thing: people love seeing it go up and they love seeing it come down. It’s got to go back to nature either way.”