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Icy art warms the heart of a Calgary community

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While some people view shoveling snow as a chore, Paul Carruthers sees it as an opportunity to add a bit of temporary artwork to his neighborhood.

When the snow falls and the Elbow River freezes solid behind his house, Carruthers picks up the shovel to skillfully clear the ice and create beautiful pictures.

“It brings a bit of luck to people,” says Carruthers. “One of the biggest advantages is that a lot more people are coming out to enjoy it.

“Neighbors you wouldn’t necessarily have seen before. . . Come by to take a look or ask if they can ice skate here, ”he says. “It’s nice to see people drop by.”

Skaters enjoy the artistic ice rink Paul Carruthers created on the Elbow River this winter. Lee Henderson photo.

Carruthers and wife Cristina originally decided to clear the river ice behind their apartment (south of the city center) to give their daughters – Steph aged 10 and AJ aged 8 – a spot to skate. But it quickly turned into a draw for others in the neighborhood.

The neighbors say the display gives their community a wonderful glow that is especially appreciated during the pandemic.

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“When my three- and five-year-old granddaughters spend the night, we sit with blankets and a warm drink on the floor of my room on the second floor and stare dreaming and dreaming at the sights that Paul created in the quiet night” says neighbor Tara Lee Klemke. “It’s a quiet, playful oasis in the middle of the city.”

Earlier designs of this Ice River art project included this maple leaf.  Paul Carruther's photo. Earlier designs of this Ice River art project included this maple leaf. Paul Carruther’s photo.

Carruthers said he started the art venture a few years ago when he was shoveling snow around the apartment. He decided to just go ahead and do a little more to extend his snow removal efforts to the river.

One dolphin design he made was freehand, but he used a computer image, some simple measurements, and a bit of lattice work on the ice to create other images like a turtle and a maple leaf. A toboggan run across the river and Christmas lights along the coast add to the overall effect.

Getting outside and getting some fresh air is important, especially under COVID restrictions, says Carruthers.

Spring is just around the corner and this year’s icy work of art is all but gone. But a new plan is being worked out for next year.

“In the last few years we have become more creative,” he says. “We have a few ideas for next year.”

Christmas lights add to the winter wonderland atmosphere of ice art that Paul Carruthers creates every year on the Elbow River.  Sarah Raiss photo. Christmas lights add to the winter wonderland atmosphere of ice art that Paul Carruthers creates every year on the Elbow River. Sarah Raiss photo. Paul Carruthers created a photo of the maple from 2020 on the Elbow River.  Paul Carruther's photo. Paul Carruthers created a photo of the maple from 2020 on the Elbow River. Paul Carruther’s photo.

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