CLAYTON — A partnership between a veteran, award-winning snow sculptor and another sculptor/artist, also award-winning but not in the snow medium, is creating some cool scenes around the village.
In conjunction with River Muse Art Gallery’s current exhibit, “Winter on the River,” Serge Sigouin and Kristy L. Askins Hoover are creating two snow sculptures at the 229 John St. gallery and another one at Winter Park at Lions Field.
The displays could be a warm-up act for something larger.
According to Michael Robbins, chief executive officer of the New York state-based Friends of Sculpting Inc., the nonprofit organization is in negotiations with village officials to bring its statewide snow sculpting competition to Clayton next year.
“I like the idea,” Mr. Robbins said. “It’s a smaller community. When we produce an event, it brings in a lot of tourism.”
The snow for the Clayton sculptures, in framed cubes, sat to cure for several days beginning last Saturday. Carving began Thursday.
The snow sculpting team of Mr. Sigouin and Ms. Hoover first discussed forming a team to compete nationally and internationally about four years ago.
“We met years back and we got chatting,” Ms. Hoover said. “We had a mutual friend. He showed me the work he’s done with snow carving and I showed him my work I’ve done in sculptural and drawing — all the stuff I do.”
The team finally gelled in December of last year, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic prevented any competitions. They are using this opportunity at River Muse Gallery to refine their skills.
Mr. Sigouin, Evans Mills, is a two-time New York state snow sculpting champion with experience in many national and international competitions. He’s originally from Terrebonne, Quebec, and learned the art and skill of snow sculpting from local renowned artist and sculptor Jerry Merrill.
Ms. Hoover, of Watertown, shows her work at River Muse and is an award-winning multimedia artist. One of her drawings, a graphite on bristol, was selected as the R. Paul Saphier Memorial Award for top drawing last autumn at the 72nd annual Juried Fall Art Show of the North Country Arts Council.
Ms. Hoover earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts and master’s degree in studio art at SUNY Oswego. She sketched the plans for the snow sculptures and is a rookie to the art of snow sculpting.
“Growing up, I always made snowmen and snow forts and everything like that,” Ms. Hoover said. “I understand the medium, but it’s completely new. I’m used to working with clay and other mediums.”
But the snow sculpting could provide her with a cool learning opportunity.
“I’ve always wanted to be able to work on a larger scale,” Ms. Hoover said. “This is a great way to experience working on a larger scale, and the medium is cheap.”
The two snow sculptures in front of River Muse Gallery will be geometric shapes, with cubes, spheres and cylinders resembling symmetrical pillars.
The one at Lions Field will be “completely different and a lot more complicated,” Ms. Hoover said.
One side of the sculpture will feature a skull and the other side a face carving with mask and winter hat.
“That one is a lot more conceptual and more intricate in design, with the idea behind it of we’re all living through COVID in winter time in Northern New York and when walking around in face masks, you really can’t identify people. We’re kind of losing our identity,” Ms. Hoover said.
The original plan by the artistic pair was to create just one sculpture.
“Now we’re doing three,” Ms. Hoover said. “Hopefully, it will turn into something more.”
Mr. Sigouin, who in 2018 and 2019 attended the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship in Lake Geneva, Wis., is on the board of Friends of Sculpting Inc. He noted there’s no statewide snow sculpting contest this year because of the pandemic.
“Next year, hopefully things will change, everybody will get vaccinated and we’ll be able to put on an event together,” he said. “Everybody is having cabin fever. It’d be nice to put a smile on peoples’s faces. That’s one of the reasons why we’re doing a few sculptures — just so people can see stuff and do a little publicity at the same time for snow sculpting.”
Mr. Robbins said the statewide contest is rotated around the state each year to promote the art.
“We’re looking at Clayton as a very nice community that’s an arts community,” he said. “I’m going to try to work with them in a partnership in order to produce a state competition.”
“When we do an event somewhere, it brings in like 70,000 people around and it brings in two to three million dollars into the community, between the hotels and restaurants and gas,” Mr. Sigouin said. “It brings a lot of people around.”
The potential lack of snow won’t be a factor.
“I’m in touch with companies that can come in for a minimal price and we can make man-made snow on the spot if they don’t have a lot of snow,” Mr. Robbins said.
Creating snow, he said, would be cheaper than transporting it from a place like snow-heavy Tug Hill.
Mr. Sigouin said international competitions can feature sculptures 20 feet long and 10 feet high.
“When you have a 100 ton block of snow, it’s fun to play with. You can do some creative stuff with it,” he said.
The Clayton sculptures being crafted are 4-by-4-feet at the base and about 6 feet tall.
Mr. Sigouin said it’s been fun instructing Ms. Hoover about the fine points of snow sculpting.
“I’m used to winging it,” he said. “I want to let her learn. If she wants to be technical, no problem.”