ST. PAUL — The beloved ice portal has returned.
St. Paul residents earlier this month were captivated by an ice and metal sculpture that loomed over a Summit Avenue median after mysteriously appearing like some kind of sci-fi monolith.
The construct, consisting of ice blocks suspended via metal cables from a sturdy metal frame, was the work of a St. Paul resident who said he didn’t want to be named because he sought to have his art get all the attention.
It certainly got on the radar of St. Paul city workers, who deemed the structure potentially unsafe and tore it down, delivering the fragments to its chagrined creator.
The artist and his wife soon fielded offers for alternate locations that would not run afoul of the public works department. Even St. Paul Brewing on St. Paul’s East Side reached out, offering a spot on the microbrewery’s patio.
“We had countless offers from neighbors along Summit and beyond,” the artist said. “I’m truly grateful, and would build one in every yard that wanted one if I could.”
The couple decided on the front yard of a residence at 1218 Summit Ave., with the homeowners’ blessing. That location is directly across Summit’s eastbound lane from the artwork’s original location.
“We felt in the end that we wanted to keep it as close as possible to the original spot, as it’s become a piece of the neighborhood landscape,” the artist said. “People had grown accustomed to seeing it on their routine walks, and we wanted to keep it nearby for them.”
Andrea Yoch, who owns the home with her husband, said she at first connected with the artist and his team on social media.
Initially, “they reached out and asked whether we knew who had taken (the sculpture) down,” she said. This had dismayed her, as she noted on Facebook at the time.
“We were chatting and I said, ‘If there’s any chance you can put it back up again, you’re free to use our yard.’ I was sort of joking, not thinking it was going to really happen,” Yoch said.
But the artist’s wife later asked if she was serious about the offer. “My husband and I said yes, absolutely. (The sculpture) had brought us so much joy, and we didn’t want to lose it.
“We want people to know they’re welcome to stop over to the yard and enjoy (the artwork) as much as we have,” Yoch said.
The artist’s team spent Friday night, Feb. 20, prepping the components in their back yard and garage, and then loading them into their minivan for painstaking assembly at the display space.
The artist singled out his wife for praise.
“I love this town, but my wife’s on a whole different level of her affection for St. Paul,” he said. “She’s also very attuned to the feel and mood of the city and our neighborhood.
“She helped scout locations, schedule the installation and found friends to help me, he said. “She also helped quite a bit with the fabrication of the blocks. I’m at home in the cold, (and) she wears gloves in the freezer section of the grocery store. (But) it was really important to her that we get this done for the city.”
The sculpture has a new design. Originally arrayed as a gateway that people could walk through, the structure later morphed into a Valentine’s Day tribute with the ice blocks arranged as a gigantic heart.
Now, it again has a portal configuration. And, for the first time, it is illuminated from below for dramatic nighttime viewing.
The structure will surely draw crowds until early next week, when warming temperatures will cause the ice blocks to begin melting away — exactly as the artist intends.
“I can’t wait for it to melt; it’s been such a long winter for so many,” he said. “I’m happy if it’s provided some illumination for the city. It’s been a lot of fun. I’m very grateful that the piece has a new home for people to enjoy it, and I still have some tricks up my sleeve before it melts.”