2024 Winterlude Spirit Horse Ice Sculpture inspired by artist Rhonda Snow

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

At the 2024 Winterlude festival in Ottawa, Ontario, the Spirit Horse Ice Sculpture was on display for hundreds to see.

Sculpted by brothers Ross and Antonio Baisas, the delicate ice panels depicted rare and endangered Ojibwe Spirit Horses. Their inspiration came from artwork by Rhonda Snow, a local Anishinaabe artist from Fort Frances.

Last year in December, Snow was asked by Trina Mather-Simard, the director of Mādahòkì Farm, if she was open to sharing her art and stories for the First Nations, Metis and Inuit International Ice Carving Competition at Winterlude.

“I was all in,” Snow said. “It was such a great fit for the Native Spirit Ponies.”

Winterlude took place from February 3 to 19 in Ottawa.

Although Snow did not get to meet the carvers, she was honoured to see the sculpture in-person during the day and night, accompanied by her sled dogs and service dog on the busy streets in Ottawa.

The delicate ice sculpture, she says, sends a “loud and clear” message to those who will listen.

“Over the centuries, humans have continued to repeatedly pollute the Earth,” Snow said. “To me, this ice sculpture could help carve out the truth and hope to not repeat the history documented by water being contaminated, as well as the freedom stripped of The Native Spirit Pony.”

Snow pointed out the “purity of clear water in the form of a Native Pony rearing up” as a great way to see the message.

“The Ice Sculpture has a message that all the world can understand if we listen,” she said. “The Purity of Ice with the Native Pony engraved, gives a reason to not repeat the great disturbing history of the past. The wilderness and all living things can be seen just like the crystals in the sculpture, with gratitude and love of our pristine beauty of Mother Earth that can return once again.”

Snow thanked Ross and Antonio Baisas for giving her the honour to help inspire with her art. She also thanked the panel at Winterlude and Mādahòkì Farm.

“I’m very honoured to be involved with Mādahòkì Farm where they help to share the Native Pony Stories and invite me to be a guest during special events and festivals,” she said.

Snow often hosts workshops at Mādahòkì events. As a long-time champion of Ojibwe Spirit Horses, she shares stories to advocate for the breed. A few years ago, Snow brought a herd to her farm in Fort Frances to help save the horses from extinction.

An ice sculpture of the endangered Ojibwe Spirit Horse dazzled audiences at Winterlude in Ottawa last month. The sculpture was inspired by local artist Rhonda Snow, who rescued a herd of the small, sturdy horses. Their preservation through art and life is her passion. – Submitted