Thursday, December 13, 2007

Local Artist Crosses the Globe

by RYackley,

Well known Tri-City artist Joe Gagnepain is headed to Italy this winter, to compete in the annual International Snow Sculpture Festival with his team, The Starvin’ Carvists.

The Starvin’ Carvists, which includes Stephen Bateman and Jason Anhorn, both artists in Eau Claire, WI, has competed in three former snow sculpting events. This team took second place February 2007 in Mt. Prospect, IL, at the annual Snow Visions competition. In January, they took third place in the International category at Zehnder’s Snowfest in Frankenmuth, MI, and they finished in fifth place at their first competition in 2006, at Frankenmuth.

Now this team of creative talent is gearing up to head to Italy for the Snow Sculpture Festival, to be held from January 9 to 11, 2008 in Innichen, and from January 14 to 16 in San Viglio, where they will compete against teams from all over the world.

“We’re the only American team going,” said Gagnepain. “This is a sanctioned snow carving event. We had to be juried in to go.”

For the Snow Sculpture Festival, The Starvin’ Carvists submitted drawings for their two planned sculptures: “Fool of the World,” showing a boy and his dog on a clipper ship, flying in the clouds; and “Mother of Invention,” showing a woman’s face with gears comprising the back of her head.

At each event, Gagnepain’s team is given a huge 10 foot block of snow. Referring to a small clay model crafted ahead of time, the team sculpts their design using hand saws, ice scrapers, and sanding pads.

Snow sculpting competitions differ from ice carving events in that teams must use all hand tools, and, in general, the scale of the snow is much larger than when ice is used.

“We make our own saws out of aluminum. We use chain saw chains to cut out the big sections. We use a horse brush to smooth the snow, and we use a drywall knife for detailing,” Gagnepain said. “We work maybe 16 hours a day on the sculpture. We want it to be perfect.”

Italy is no stranger to snow sculptures. An Olympic sanctioned event, Bardonecchia, Italy was host to the 2006 Olympic Snow Sculpture contest, held as part of the cultural program of the TuriWinter Olympic Games, that year.

Maybe The Starvin’ Carvists will make it to the Olympics some day, but in the meantime, you will be able to see Gagnepain with his hands in the snow at a premiere snow event coming to Geneva February 18 to 22, 2008. According to Gagnepain, who is one of the coordinators for this first time local event, the City of Geneva is planning on providing a snow making machine for the competition.

The Starvin’ Carvists are currently raising funds to help pay for their airfare and transportation costs to Italy, as well as for winter gear for the team, such as matching parkas and snow pants. The Tourist Boards for the participating towns, which are located in the Italian Alps, are providing room and board, and about a third of each team’s airfare.

Interested businesses are invited to contact Gagnepain for information on getting promotional patches and logos on the team’s gear, which will be worn in Italy and at all future competitions. Visit for more information.