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World renowned ice artist carves out his own niche in Ohio

A chainsaw may not be thought of as a standard tool for creating art. But for ice carver Aaron Costic, he couldn’t make his art without one.

Costic is the man behind many of the ice sculptures seen around the region, including the dozens that will be on view this weekend in the historic district of Medina in Northeast Ohio. As a kid growing up in Medina, Costic shunned traditional art lessons.

Peggy Costic keeps a scrapbook of her son Aaron's ice sculpting career, including photos and newspaper articles.
Jean-Marie Papoi
Ideastream Public Media
Proud mom Peggy Costic has kept a scrapbook of her son's accomplishments throughout his 34-year ice carving career.

“When he was younger, we never thought of him as being artistic,” said his mother, Peggy Costic. “You couldn't even read his handwriting. Ever.”

Instead, her son spent more time in wood shop, getting comfortable with power tools.

“It wasn't until I found ice carving that I started nurturing the art side of my brain and taking more classes and practicing drawing,” he said.

His mother remembers the day her son revealed to his parents his career plans.

“His father looked at him and said, ‘How are you going to make any money making ice cubes?’” she recalled with a smile. “I said, ‘Aaron, if anybody can do this, you can.’”

Costic began practicing and learning the craft by participating in ice carving competitions, both nationally and internationally, sometimes as many as 18 a year.

“Through all the practice and preparation and execution and also seeing what everybody else was doing, I was able to make mistakes faster,” he said. “When you make mistakes faster, you learn quickly.”

Ice sculpture by Aaron Costic of a woman gracefully extending both arms and one leg in the form of a yoga pose.
Aaron Costic
The sculpture titled "Concentration" won Aaron Costic his eighth championship title at the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2016. Costic and his carving partner, Jim Duggan, placed first out of 50 teams.

Costic went on to win the World Ice Art Championships in Fairbanks, Alaska, eight times. He’s competed in three Winter Olympics as part of the Cultural Olympiad, which celebrates the arts during the games. He won both a bronze and gold medal for his sculptures there.

When he wasn’t competing, Costic built his own ice sculpting business, Elegant Ice Creations. The studio in Broadview Heights has been designing custom sculptures for weddings and events across Northeast Ohio since 1991.

A few years after getting started, the company took over hosting the annual Medina Ice Festival, now in its 30th year.

Among the largest ice festivals in the region, more than 100 sculptures will be on view throughout Downtown Medina Friday through Monday. The artworks are all hand-carved by Costic and his small team.

The festivities include a fire and ice tower, where ice and fire battle one another, as well as an ice slide and live carving demonstrations.

“Friday night we have speed carving where carvers go head-to-head for 20 minutes. The crowd picks who moves on,” Costic said.

It’s a friendly competition between Costic and his long-time ice carving comrades.

Though that’s the extent of his competing these days, Costic continues to delight audiences with his favorite artform.

“The ephemeral quality is also something that people are amazed by,” Costic said. “It's here just for the moment.”

Ice sculptures of two penguins and a bear at the 2023 Medina Ice Festival.
Rob Biehl
Propped Productions
More than 100 sculptures line the streets of Downtown Medina for the annual festival, all created by Costic and the small team at Elegant Ice Creations.

Jean-Marie Papoi has been a producer with Ideastream Public Media since 2016, creating award-winning content across multiple platforms. She is currently the digital producer for the Arts & Culture team.