ST. PAUL — Earlier this month, a dramatic yet whimsical ice and metal sculpture materialized in a St. Paul neighborhood, drawing residents who braved subzero temperatures to marvel at it and share pictures on social media.

The art installation consisted of hefty, sculptured ice blocks on metal cables suspended from a metal frame. The blocks were initially arrayed as a kind of portal that visitors could walk through. Later, in a nod to Valentine’s Day, the blocks were rearranged as a gigantic heart.

This week, the sculpture’s fans voiced consternation when the installation vanished. The artwork had become a beloved icon within its short lifespan, and some in the community felt something akin to grief at its abrupt departure.

The artwork’s author said city officials tore it down.

“Public works dropped off all my goodies this morning,” he said. “They were very nice and were pretty impressed by the piece. The ice is pretty trashed, which I expected. The frame is also pretty banged up and is going to need a fresh powder coating. It got thrown into the back of a city truck.”

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Clare Cloyd, a spokeswoman for the city’s Parks and Recreation department, said the sculpture was removed for safety reasons.

”The piece was anonymously installed without permission,” Cloyd said. “Maintenance teams removed it yesterday due to safety concerns, primarily related to the heavy beams that were not properly secured and posed a public safety risk.”

A St. Paul artist erected a sculpture with hefty ice blocks on metal cables that hung from a metal frame, which was kept erect and in position with sandbags. The art installation later vanished, apparently removed by city officials. (Julio Ojeda-Zapata / Pioneer Press)
A St. Paul artist erected a sculpture with hefty ice blocks on metal cables that hung from a metal frame, which was kept erect and in position with sandbags. The art installation later vanished, apparently removed by city officials. (Julio Ojeda-Zapata / Pioneer Press)

Cloyd added that “we value art and creative ideas in our public spaces and are always willing to have those conversations with artists and the community (including this piece), but public safety remains a top priority and a major reason why an approval process is in place.”

Pam Schmid, a St. Paul resident who fell in love with the sculpture, said Wednesday “I’m a bit heartbroken that it’s gone now. There was something magical about it, and it brought a bit of hope during these dark times.”

Schmid was among those who tramped onto the wide, wooded Summit Avenue median to marvel at the sculpture.

“I first saw it in person a week ago Monday, Feb. 8,” she said. “I walked there alone and I think it was three below out! Seeing it lifted my spirits. It left me feeling more hopeful about the world. I’ve been there twice since, most recently Sunday, when it had magically morphed into a giant heart, which was utterly amazing.”

The sculptor, who asked that his name not be used, shared a video of the sculpture taking shape in his garage earlier this month.

“I’ve been working with ice for the last 15 winters or so,” he said. “I love the interactive aspect of my work. The ice is manufactured sculpture ice. It comes in 300-pound blocks, and I shape it as I need from there.

“My wife and I live just a few blocks off of Summit, and I am a commercial jewelry photographer by day,” he said. “My wife chose the location, and we installed it with the help of a few friends and neighbors.

“We’re attempting to stay anonymous mostly because I don’t want to get in the way of anyone’s experience with the piece,” he said. “There’s a quietness when you’re there, especially if you’re alone, and we didn’t want a plaque or artist’s statement.”

He said he and his wife are “disappointed it was taken down, but it’s part of what you sign up for when you go around the proper channels, and I understand and take responsibility for that. It’s a unique skillset, and we felt it was something the city needed, and deserved.

“I’m so pleased that so many people got to enjoy it,” he added. “We had planned on changing up the design again this week as I still have a ton of ice in my garage.”

He said he has been offered alternate exhibit spaces.

“We don’t know if we’ll be putting it back up,” he said. “We’ve had some offers for a proper venue. Some of the neighbors are pretty upset about it being taken down and would like to see it put back up somewhere else.”