Thank you, distinguished citizens, for conferring upon me this office of Snow-Fort City Mayor. It is no small honor to assume my half-imaginary duties in this pop-up, collaborative, city-planning art fantasy at the edge of Lake Superior. “City” is an aspirational term for this arrangement of snow walls and monuments in Duluth’s Leif Erickson Park. Snow-Fort City’s true location lies somewhere within our skulls — like all cities. My Facebook post initiating construction was shared more than a hundred times in just a few hours, and it attracted the Duluth News-Tribune and KBJR-6/CBS-3, which tells me the vision of the snow-fort city is the real object. Almost none of the post-sharers, newspaper readers, or TV viewers made it down to the actual Snow-Fort City. They are content to view it with their eyes closed, in its most pure form: the Platonic one.
It literally came to me in a vision, like the origin of so many great cities. In a way, like Duluth itself. I remember the words of George Nettleton’s wife from 1856, when her husband’s mind swam with dreams of Duluth-as-future-city: “I thought he had a pretty long head to see that there was going to be a city here sometime when there was then nothing” (Duluth: An Illustrated History of the Zenith City by Glenn N. Sandvik).
It was a great day to build a #snowfortcity with volunteers Stephen Bockhold, Sean MacManus, and others including an unnamed mom with two kids in tow who attested she was a #peoplesfreeskate participant last winter. One of the kids she was with, who I’ve never seen before, called me “Aquaman” unprompted on camera while KBJR-6/CBS-3 was filming: hope that makes the final cut.
Day 1. Duluth’s Leif Erikson Park. Most of my time was taken up by Duluth News-Tribune reporters who showed up – oops got in the paper again. Otherwise slow going with cold powdery snow – spray bottles and water make the job easier so bring those. It’s sort of Day 2 since some folks built this formidable snow fort yesterday, and got the base of another one started. It’s sort of Day 3, since I built a proof-of-concept wall before the blizzard, but it blew down so I restarted it today. A huge help was Morgan Pirsig et al. who laid down a solid sled trail which helps define the space. It goes so fast we need to bank it by the stage now. Troy Rogers aka Robot Rickshaw showed up and we demonstrated proper wall-building technique for the media. A season-long project to turn the park into a citizen-led collective art installation and playground.
I built this Snowhenge wall segment in Leif Erickson Park today in three hours with a bucket. Will it remain after a weekend of playing children, and snowstorms including 30-mph winds? Probably not. But rebuilding and rebirth are central to this season-long project where work and leisure are indistinguishable. The blizzard should die off Sunday and the upcoming week should be clear to terraform the gift of snow.