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Rural Albertan medals in winter sculpture competition

Rural Albertan medals in winter sculpture competition

Morton Burke competed at the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in China

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer

An artist from rural Alberta led his team to a gold medal during an international snow sculpting competition in Harbin, China.

Sundre, Alta,’s Morton Burke and his Atti2ude Club won gold for excellence in sculpture against 29 other teams for their work titled The Power of Nature during the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival in January.

The piece measured about 14-feet (4.2-metres) tall and showed four bison heads, each about eight-feet (2.4-metres) tall and facing in different directions.

The team, which included Burke’s sister, Brontie, Beata Rostas of Hungary and Gerard Motondi of Kenya, had three days and six hours to complete the work in temperatures that dipped below -20 C (-4 F).

“Each team was basically representing a country,” Burke told “But we wanted to have an international team and have one member from four different continents.”

Burke’s sister stepped in after another sculptor from Vietnam had to pull out because of a family matter, Burke said.

Burke created a small clay model as a reference for the larger project.

He chose the buffalo design to symbolize climate change and dangers to the planet’s animals, even though two of his teammates had never seen a bison or snow before.

“We had a team of very competent artists,” said Burke, who primarily works with stone. “Changing materials is just a technical difference; it has nothing to do with your artistic ability, so I had no reservations about us having fun and creating a good sculpture.”

The Harbin Ice and Snow Festival is the largest international snow sculpting competition in the world.

It brings together the world’s best artists and plenty of visitors, Burke said.

“Last year there were 18 million visitors,” he said. “And you wouldn’t believe the size of some of these pieces. Some were as high as school buildings. You wouldn’t believe it unless you saw it.”

After the team’s success during the snow festival, they received an invitation to create another sculpture in 2022 when China hosts the Olympics.

“We weren’t expecting that,” he said.

Burke and the team plan to enter one or two competitions next year in preparation for their Olympic work, he added.

Back in Alberta, Burke is the owner of Bergen Rocks Sculpture Symposium, a large acreage where he’s held multiple international sculpting events.

He wants to use his platform in the art space to encourage other communities to display artwork in public.

“My vision is to create sculpture parks in our area,” he said. “Just this summer we installed 10 sculptures in Olds and I want to build the popularity and awareness of public art and some of the social and economic benefits it can provide.”

Morton Burke photo


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