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.”

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“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.”

Johnsen initially thought he had rolled 100 snowmen; it was only later he learned the number was 84. Regardless, he said he’s proud of his work and has already put it in his portfolio.

“They’re not going to last forever,” he said. “If you want to fully experience these snowmen, you have to go see it.”

Chris Peters covers the Henry Doorly Zoo and writes feature stories for The World Herald's Living section. Follow him on Twitter @_ChrisPeters. Phone: 402-444-1734.

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