Like all of you, I finished tons of art projects while in grade school. After we finished, my fellow students decorated the classroom walls with their masterpieces. Unfortunately, the teacher always said, “You can take yours home.” I figured the nuns believed I lived in a house with bare walls. Then I learned they had made a subjective art judgment.

One time I spent hours in the garage with wood scraps to build a birdhouse. When I showed my masterpiece to my father, he took minutes to stop sputtering with laughter. “No self-respecting bird would ever go in there,” he said. “Anyway, where’s the entry hole that lets the birds inside?”

Uh, details, details.

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity with the Ice Alaska park opening today for the 2023 World Ice Art Championships.

I love ice art. I am a crazy, big-time fan of it, actually. I’ve attended previous championships here in Fairbanks, in Anchorage, and in Richmond, Indiana. I marvel at the creativity, the planning, the steady hands, the all-seeing visionary eyes, the persistence of these artists.

Hank Nuwer, 2017; Fairbanks, Alaska


How marvelous it is that in the hands of an artist, a simple blue block of ice — an Arctic diamond — can become a fairytale setting, a mythic creature like a unicorn, a goddess out of mythology, or zoo creatures like lions and tigers and bears. Oh my!

Since I am now over the trauma (sniff, sniff) of my father’s unreasonable dismissal of my birdhouse lacking an entry hole, I found myself at work daydreaming over what my sculpted hands might pull out of my assigned block of ice.

Nahh! I know what the judges would say.

“Maybe you better bring that block home.”

Sigh. I get no respect.