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Frozen: Area artists put frigid temps to good use at fifth annual Northampton Ice Art Festival



Last modified: Thursday, April 16, 2015
As officials in Northampton try to figure out how to get rid of the city’s overflowing piles of snow, many residents are looking forward to the delivery Friday of nearly five tons of ice.

All that frozen water will be divvied up into 300-pound blocks, which will then be used by 11 artists to create sculptures for “The Northampton Ice Art Festival,” sponsored by the Northampton Center for the Arts.

The artists will get to work Friday morning at a dozen downtown locations (professional ice artist Joe Almeida will sculpt at two sites), and plan to finish up in time for “Arts Night Out” that begins at 5 p.m.

A close call

The festival almost didn’t happen this year, says Penny Burke, director of the Center for the Arts. Its future had been in question since the event’s former sponsor, the Northampton BID, was dissolved late last year.

Burke, who spearheaded the battle to preserve the festival, says an infusion of funds from the Northampton Radio Group, and support from the City of Northampton and Northampton’s “Arts Night Out” ensured that the festival would go on.

“We didn’t want to see this special event fade away,” said Radio Group general manager, David Musante. “It brings people to town to stroll, shop, and dine. It creates great memories and keeps people coming back to downtown Northampton.”

And it’s more than a money-maker, Burke says. It also offers an opportunity for artists, both professional and amateur, to have their works seen. Among them will be a V-One martini luge in front of Eastside Grill on Strong Avenue. The luge, a sloped block of ice that cools beverages as they flow down its channels, will actually be put to use, Burke said.

“Who doesn’t wanna see a martini luge?”

This year’s festival coincides with the city’s “Arts Night Out,” which takes place on the second Friday of every month. And it’s not an accident, she added, that it falls on the eve of Valentine’s Day.

“It’s supposed to be a holiday-like environment,” Burke said.

Here’s how it works: Artists will arrive at their stations Friday between 8 and 10 a.m., where they will labor over slabs of ice, picking and chipping away with ice tools and chain saws, until the late afternoon. Completed pieces will be revealed during “Arts Night Out,” from 5 to 8 p.m.

“It’s a festive atmosphere,” Burke said. “You can go in and out of venues to stay warm and happy and, depending on the weather, sculptures may stay around for a while.”

From newbies to pros

Featured ice artists come from diverse backgrounds with different levels of experience and expertise. Several have participated in all of Northampton’s ice festivals, including professional ice carver Joe Almeida, painter/sculptor Greg Stone and Don Chapelle, founder of Boston’s “Brilliant Ice Sculpture.”

The other participants are mixed media artist Peter Dellert, sculptors Tim de Christopher and Matt Evald Johnson, installation artist Chris Nelson, the eclectic Sally Curcio, wood carver Nathan Peterson and sculptor Tom Kellner.

Dellert is participating in the festival for the fourth time.

Calling himself an “amateur” ice sculptor, Dellert says he uses his skills as a carpenter and mixed media artist to make his ice carvings. At first, though, the learning curve was a bit steep. Before his initial attempt at ice art, Dellert says, he was given an impromptu, hands-on lesson by Almeida, the professional ice sculptor, in the parking lot behind Spoleto’s restaurant. After the lesson, Dellert sculpted abstract shapes. The following year, with more experience under his belt, he says, he made a basket that held a heart. Last year, he produced a frozen representation of a Heliconia, a tropical flower.

With experience, he says, his ice-sculpting skills have developed over time.

This year, he will carve a representation of a drawing by the late Armenian-American painter Arshile Gorky.

“I am becoming more familiar with the material,” Dellert said.

Carving ice is actually easier than carving wood, Dellert said, because ice is softer than wood, making it easier to make swift cuts with a chain saw, ice pick or other tool. Plus, he added, ice holds an edge nicely, and is easily manipulated.

Although he enjoys carving ice once a year, he says, his favorite part of the festival is the social and community interaction.

“It’s good because I get to hang with my buds,” Dellert said.



Sculptors will begin work Friday at 10 a.m.; the art walk, “Arts Night Out,” begins the same day at 5 p.m. and runs until 8 p.m. A map of artists and their installation sites will be available at “Arts Night Out” locations. For more information, visit www.nohoarts.org.