The Coolest Art Around

The Harbin International Ice and Snow Festival just started a couple weeks ago. Despite temperatures which hover in the -20s, they are expecting about 1.5 million visitors before the festival ends in February.

You can see pictures of the works like the one above on a number of websites. Every year, the artists try to out do the spectacle of the year before.

However, the ice doesn’t cut and cart itself out of the Songhua River. Every year, starting in December, farmers looking for some extra money during the winter get up at 3-4 am and work 12-13 hours cutting ice blocks.

Sixth Tone had this short video below  accompanying their story about the workers who have been doing this job for years, despite swearing they will never do it again.

Like people all around the world, they raise the familiar complaint about “kids today.”

Most of the ice cutters are farmers from nearby villages, ranging in age from 30 to 55. Nobody younger is willing to take up the job. “The work is too difficult,” Tang said. “[Young people] can’t deal with the hardship. They don’t need to do this to make money.”


I am sure most haven’t forgotten, but just another reminder that art doesn’t just happen. The creative expression we see is just the final stage of a lot of hard work and sweat (well, if it were warm enough to sweat.)

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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