An art student’s sleepless night was the inspiration behind an army of 84 snowmen that appeared seemingly out of nowhere in Leavenworth Park Tuesday morning.
The simple three-ball snowmen are dyed red, blue and yellow, and they’re scattered about the park, leading neighbors, passersby and at least one Omaha police officer to stop their cars, snap a photo and smile.
The overnight art wasn’t part of some big initiative or grand plan. It was an impromptu idea from a college student.
While his neighbors slept, 27-year-old sculptor and University of Nebraska at Omaha fine arts student Alec Paul Johnsen hand-rolled each of the 84 snowmen. He labored in the cold from 10:30 p.m. Monday until about 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, walked home, took a nap, then came back to add dye to his creation, which he calls “Love Army.”
Sign up for The World-Herald's afternoon updates
Receive a summary of the day’s popular and trending stories from Omaha.com.
“My knees are wrecked right now,” he said on Thursday. “In order to start the snowballs, you have to get on your knees and walk on them. My knees are completely bruised, and they have scabs on them. I rubbed them raw.”
Despite near-freezing overnight temperatures, Johnsen wasn’t focused on the cold.
He said he walked into the park because he noticed the snow was perfect for packing and building sturdy snowpeople.
As he kept building, it became therapeutic.
“I just went through a breakup of four years, so that’s been hard on my mind,” said the Las Vegas native, who moved to Omaha for school. “I was building snowmen, but I was really working on life. I kind of zoned out.”
“They’re not going to last forever,” he said. “If you want to fully experience these snowmen, you have to go see it.”
1 of 18
This snow house was a neighborhood project in the yard of Gerald A. Lawver Sr. at 4124 R Street. Left to right are: Michael Rok, 9; Jimmy Krzemein, 9; Gerald Lawver Jr; and Clare Ann Buscher, 6. Taken Jan. 28, 1956.
David Prost, 13 and his sister Susan, 10 sculpted a 15-foot-high tribute to the space age at 9306 Blondo, on March 9, 1959.
Dinner party in snowhouse, dessert off the ceiling. Four adventerous couples ate steak in a snowhouse they carved in the middle of a giant drift on Feb. 18, 1960. They refused to give their names as they dined on charcoal broiled steak, salad, and several vegetables. Mulled wine and a lantern provided warmth. Dessert was blueberry sauce poured over snow squares cut from the ceiling. The "dining room" was dug out of a snowdrift along Highway 36 about a mile east of Bennington.
A stunning snowlady in formal dress engages the attention of Jerry Jancik, 316 S. 68th St., on Jan. 6, 1960. The sculptor was Jerry's sister Judy, 16, assisted by her friend Joyce Anderson.
John Dalton, 11 and his sister Mary, 12 made snow sculptures of Mr. & Mrs. Abraham Lincoln to celebrate Lincoln's birthday on Feb. 11, 1961 at their home at 2615. S. 32nd Ave.
Michelle Hess, whose hobby is sketching horses and collecting horse figurines sculpted these snow ponies in her West Point back yard on Jan. 23, 1964.
Jeff Mittermeier thanks sister Lolly for making a valentine box out of snow in their yard at 191 S. 17th St. in 1965.
Laura and Daryl Penning used this abandoned tub in their back yard to form one wall of a snow fort on Dec. 9, 1971. No enemy snowballs penetrated the wall. Laura, 5, peeks from the tub as Daryl, 6, left, and Danny Sullivan, 6, prepare to fire.
The Richard Kofoed family had a 12 foot armless guest on their lawn at 8205 Bowie Drive on Dec. 29, 1974. Mike Kofoed had to stand on a ladder to add the finishing touches. Other sculptors are: Aline Gamanche, left, Bart Kofoed, Jim Jackson, Rick Gamache and Rich Smith.
Marsha Mulligan of 10325 Wright St. sits atop her 8-foot elephant built during a weekend of melting snow with the help of friends Joe and David Podrazo and Rich Michelson. A sombrero will add a touch of the absurd. Photo taken Dec. 30, 1974.
Holly Rothschild and Lisa Stastney, both 12, tunnel through the snow after the January 1975 blizzard. The girls lived near 116th & Dodge.
A snow Snoopy and Woodstock on top of the doghouse at the Thomas Marshall home at 2229 S. 138th Street. Taken Jan. 8, 1975.
Dickie and Tami Surber of 324 N. 41st St., put together their very own Puff the Magic Dragon on Jan. 23, 1976. They may have had a little help from their mother, Joan Sturber.
Randy Keeler, 15, of 10204 O St. stands on a ladder to attach the ear of a giant snow rabbit he and his friends built on March 21, 1977. The snow sculpture took three hours to create.
Two of the coolest cowgirls in the west are Deana Biocourt, 2 and her sister Michelle, 3. They're riding the trail in front of their house at 6611 S. 48th St. on March 8, 1978. Looks like they're in for some company. Out ahead of them is a happy looking snow hombre. On down the trail a piece is a good ol' snow bear.
Chuckie and Robert Dellutri were counting their blessings a little early on Nov. 18, 1978. Chuckie, 10, on the left and Robbie, 12, were thankful the snow didn't melt before they had a chance to build what they're counting on eating later that week — turkey. The boys even used brown food coloring and feathers to make the sculpture more realistic. But the boys thoughts weren't just on food. They also created a 7 foot snowman and colored him - you guessed it - Big Red.
These seven Omaha snow sculptors used the remnants of a March 1980 blizzard to create a giant frog. Seated is Lisa Flaitz, 9, while in the rear, from left, are Billy Flaitz, 5, Chad Allison, 4, Shelly Flaitz, 11, and the frog's creator Dave McLoed, a self-employed artist, holding his children Alex, 2 and Briana, 4. The figure originally was a bear, but melted down and was remade into a frog.
A baseball hard hat tops a snowman in Hanscom Park on Dec. 1, 1983. Neil Corcoran, 13 admires his handiwork.