Students can visit ice sculptures minutes from Exchange District Campus

By: Emily Sikora

Red River College Polytechnic students only have to walk about 10 minutes from the Exchange District Campus to see local art, thanks to a collaboration between Sputnik Architecture and Downtown Winnipeg BIZ to bring ice sculptures to Winnipeg’s downtown.

Since the start of the pandemic, many students have missed engaging with their communities. Allan Dracass, a Digital Media Design student, recalled feeling isolated when he lived on campus last term.

“There wasn’t a whole lot going on. It can almost feel like the world is dead when there’s nothing happening, so local initiatives like that are important. It can really mean a lot to people,” Dracass said. “Public art…it kind of helps with the whole concrete jungle aspect of things.”

Gregory Stewart, a part-time student at RRC Polytech, agreed that bringing art into public spaces is important to build community.

“It’s a good idea,” said Stewart. “It adds to the beauty of our environment.”

The exhibition, called “Winter Wanderland,” also makes it easier for students to engage with art when they don’t have time to visit galleries.

“It’s time management,” said Stewart. “I’m taking my course in the evening, so I’m in a hunkered down mode.”

Sputnik Architecture has commissioned local artists to create the 11 sculptures, which have been carved from ice blocks harvested from the Red River. Lawrence Bird, Urban Designer at Sputnik Architecture, said the project takes advantage of Winnipeg’s harsh winters.

Allan Fogg’s sculpture Song to the Moon (front) with Daniel & Helen Lepp Friesen’s sculpture An Instant…in Ice (back) at Union Centre (275 Broadway). /EMILY SIKORA

“Winnipeg is a winter city, so we try to do everything we can to encourage people to enjoy it. It’s not just about surviving winter, but seeing winter as an opportunity to do new things,” Bird said. “It’s also important because we all live together in the city. Everyone can enjoy the sculptures, whoever goes by them.”

One of the goals of public art is to “activate” public space, said Bird.

“That’s the intention really. It makes the place interesting to be in for all kinds of people, so that you actually spend time in the space. That’s what we’re interested in, to entertain and engage.”

He said the exhibition also aims to encourage people to visit downtown businesses that have struggled during the pandemic. 

“It helps businesses when people have a reason to come to a spot,” Bird said. “It’s challenging for those folks, so I think it helps a bit.” 

“Winter Wanderland” sculptures can now be seen at Bonnycastle Park, Union Centre, the Millennium Library, True North Square, the Alt Hotel, and the Burton Cummings Theatre.