Ann Arbor man creates snow sculptures in his backyard

Ann Arbor resident Mark Lee stands next to his snow sculpture of an owl in his backyard. (Mark Lee)

ANN ARBOR – Mark Lee began creating snow sculptures in his backyard 11 years ago when he and his young son would build snow forts together.

The owner of a local gardening business, he has enjoyed spending free time in the winter months creating the sculptures that neighbors also stop by to see.

An art school graduate, Lee enjoys the challenge of transforming snow into shapes, objects and faces. But in recent years, the snowfall hasn’t been enough to make a lasting work of art -- until these past few weeks.

Snow sculptures in the shape of animals created by Mark Lee in 2021. (Mark Lee)

“This year has been atypical,” said Lee. “It’s been so cold and we’ve had such consistent snows that I’ve been able to keep adding to it. It’s been seven years since I’ve been able to do this.”

This season’s massive snow pile has taken on many shapes. Lee has transformed it into a bird, a pig, an owl and a cat. Some sculptures are abstract and sometimes he will place candles inside to illuminate the work at night.

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His most recent sculpture is an ode to Black History Month with an African art motif.

A sculpture in honor of Black History Month. (Mark Lee)

When asked how he decides what to create, he said the shape of the snow pile dictates which direction he takes with it.

Already known in the community for his seasonal creations, Lee said it draws different reactions.

“Half the people are like, ‘Oh that’s really beautiful,’ and half are like, ‘Oh it’s going to melt,’” said Lee, who said he actually enjoys their temporary nature. “I like the impermanent fact of the sculptures that they’re only here for this brief moment.”

Snow sculptures Mark Lee created in 2021 in Ann Arbor. (Mark Lee)

Although his son is a teenager now and no longer has any interest in building snow forts, he will give input on his dad’s latest creation. Ultimately, Lee makes the sculptures for his own enjoyment.

“That’s my view out my kitchen window.” he said. “And I have a nice sculpture to look at.”