Festival Banner (the Arts Festival blog)

Jared McAlister at Work
Jared McAlister brushes snow from a carving at First Night State College.

Jared McAlister has been carving ice for over half his life. His first one-block carving, done when he was 14, took him several days to complete. He’d stop by his grandfather’s ice house after school, pull his model out of the freezer, and made some tentative cuts on his own 265 lb. block of ice, frozen in a Clinebell ice maker. Before too long, it would be time to go home to dinner and his homework and he’d put both blocks back in the freezer, so they’d be ready for the next day’s session. In time a deer—looking quite like the model–emerged from his block of ice, and Jared had taken his first steps to a career as an ice carver.

Jared’s artistry—along with that of his Uncle Ernie, his cousin Joe, and the other First Night State College ice carvers will transform thousands of pounds of crystal clear ice into glittering sculpture on December 31 for First Night State College. Under the direction of Ice Captain Ernie DiMartino—Uncle Ernie, to Jared–almost 100 one-block sculptures will be displayed in Sidney Friedman Park, on Mayor Welch Plaza and in front of sponsoring downtown business. The team will carve larger works on the 100 block of South Allen Street.

Even though his family had been in the ice business for some time, working as an ice carver wasn’t Jared’s original career goal. He thought he’d be an electrician and went to vocational college to learn all about fiber optics. However, after he finished school, the available jobs required more travel than he wanted to do. It was at about this time that his uncle offered him the opportunity to sculpt, and fiber optics’ loss was ice carving’s gain.

In his fifteen years of carving, he’s carved hearts, birds, animals, sports figures, even a block of Lego. When he carved an ice tooth for the dental practice where his mother works, the impact of his work became apparent to him. “They loved it. To me, it was just a tooth, but to my mother and her co-workers, it was their profession.”

Many of his ice carver peers are chefs, when they’re not talking about ice, they’re talking about food. Jared has no problem keeping up—he’s a foodie and home brewer, and into the craft beer scene. But unlike many peers, he’s also a techie. (Note the iPhone mounted above his headphones/earmuffs!) When prompted he’s more than up to the task of explaining how ice isn’t made with water, it’s made it with electricity. Who knew, right?