Downtown, ice carving draws crowd

Taking advantage of its recent glacial temperatures, the Elm City displayed the most recent of its Flirting with February promotions Saturday near the Shubert Theater: ice carving.

Flirting with February, a collaboration between local merchants and the city, aims to rebuff New Haven’s commercial appeal during the harsh economy and bitter winter months. As part of the month-long promotion, Elm City Ice — the oldest ice company in New Haven, according to its owner — donated 300 pounds of ice, and the services of its carvers, to create seven sculptures scattered across the city. The carving demonstration took place outside the Shubert Theater on College Street.

Ice sculptors gathered outside the Shubert Theater Saturday to mold blocks of ice into works of art for College Street passersby to admire.
Snigdha Sur
Ice sculptors gathered outside the Shubert Theater Saturday to mold blocks of ice into works of art for College Street passersby to admire.

“It makes more sense for all these organizations to get together. Our goal is always to expose people to New Haven,” said Sheri Kaplan, general manager of the Shubert Theater. “We rely on each other’s success.”

Jake King-Gilbert, the 23-year-old co-owner of Elm City Ice, is also known as “the ice man.” A University of Hartford graduate, he worked at Elm City Ice throughout high school before buying out the company during his senior year from his now co-partner’s father. Originally scheduled for 10 a.m., the carving did not begin until noon.

But in the interim, families sipped hot cocoa or coffee and made valentines. At 1 p.m., the theater screened “Happy Feet.”

“We are trying to create free family fun,” said Anthony Lupinacci, director of public relations at the Shubert.

That morning, it was just above freezing. But before carving, King-Gilbert took off his jacket. “I’m going to start sweating,” he said.

King-Gilbert had learned how to carve only the day before, but he had the style. His tools of choice: chain saw, router, ice pick, six-way and chisels. His goal: an “old-school” video-camera sculpture. He said it takes him about two hours to carve each sculpture.

“I usually have sculptors,” he said, “but they all blew me off, so I figured yesterday was a good day to learn.”

King-Gilbert said he got the idea to carve from tradition.

“The city used to do it years and years ago, on the Green,” King-Gilbert said.

Many families came upon the carvings without planning on it. Because of the weather, many said they had been spending much of their time indoors.

“I just stopped by,” said Wu Yan, 43, who had his children, ages 2, 3 and 5, with him. “We don’t know too much about this.”

Similarly, Hamden resident Julie Alissi, 42, said she found out about the event from her brother, visiting from Chicago.

Chanielle Reed, 11, woke up early for the event.

“I usually sleep in ’til 12,” she said. “It’s worth it. I’ve never seen this before.”

Eight volunteers from the University of New Haven in West Haven Sigma Chi chapter guarded two sculptures before the carving started. One, King-Gilbert’s first carving, a nearly finished cello, was later dollied to Chapel Street; the other, donated by ice sculptor Larry Siragusa depicting comedy and tragedy faces, was left outside the Shubert.

Meredith Trainor FES ’10 said the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies hired King-Gilbert to sculpt an ice luge for drinks at its Halloween Party.

For those who missed out, New Haven will hold another ice-carving demonstration this Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and a screening of “Lady and the Tramp” at the Shubert at 1 p.m. Sculptures can be viewed throughout the downtown New Haven area. Catch them before they melt.

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