An ice sculptor’s business melted away in the pandemic. So he’s making street art instead.
In the walk-in freezer at Ice Sculpture Philly, in an industrial corner of West Philadelphia, ice sculptures meant for dozens of weddings, concerts and conferences sit trapped in suspension — some of them generic decorations, others custom-made for celebrations that have been delayed for months or may not happen at all.
“They’re like ghosts,” ice sculptor Peter Slavin said.
On a crisp Mother’s Day morning, Slavin decided to set one free.
He loaded the glistening, 200-pound ice “LOVE” sculpture into his truck and delivered it to a plywood-covered pedestal overlooking the Schuylkill, where a politically controversial Viking statue had loomed until it was toppled and submerged a few years back. Then, with a swipe of a blowtorch, he polished it to glassy clarity, stepped back, and let the selfies ensue.
Slavin and his employees, who used to churn out around three dozen sculptures a week, have been out of work since the coronavirus shut down events two months ago. So, Slavin has been making new sculptures, a few each week, to install around the city. This guerrilla ice sculpting is Slavin’s way of connecting, sending out little sparks of hope and humanity amid the gloom.
“Instead of getting depressed,” he said, “we’re trying to do what we can do — to have some fun, get my guys working, and keep my brain flowing.”