Olympic athlete Jason Brown has been shining on the ice from a tender age. Now he’s glistening in ice — thanks to a three-dimensional likeness of the figure skater that was carved from ice blocks and placed in Highland Park’s Port Clinton Square.
On Wednesday, the sculpture depicting the 19-year-old phenom in an I-spin position — with a free leg vertically upright in front of his body — was unveiled before a throng of public officials, friends and fans.
Brown and other members of the U.S. Figure Skating Team took a bronze medal early in the Olympic games in a team skating competition. His individual event was scheduled for Thursday.
“As far as we’re concerned, he’s already a winner to us, his extended family back here in Highland Park,” said Highland Park Mayor Nancy Rotering.
Ice sculptor Kristopher Duschen, a co-owner of Johnson Studios Ice Sculptures, said his team worked from photographs and a video clip to create the 10-foot-tall likeness out of some 15 separate blocks of ice. Duschen said ice sculptors start with a chain saw and angle grinders, then refine the piece with chisels and special ice-carving tools before softening the lines with a torch.
As commissions go, the Jason Brown likeness was a short-turnaround assignment. Word of the commission came Friday, Feb. 7, as Duschen was packing up replicas of the original Chicago Water Tower and the Ferris Wheel for an exhibition at the Chicago Auto Show. The Jason Brown sculpture was to be unveiled in just five days, on Wednesday, Feb. 12.
“I am proud to be doing this for him,” said Duschen. “He’s such a sweetheart. You can see how appreciative he is to be in the Olympic Games. You can see it in his eyes. It gives me a great sense of pride to be part of this. It really does.”
Figure skating coach Yasmin Fatah was among those on hand for the unveiling. Fatah worked with Brown from age 8 to 11.
“He’s always been a star,” said Fatah. “I think what set him apart was not only his natural talent but his incredible dedication and hard work. What really makes Jason incredible is that if there is anything that exceeds his skating ability, it’s his good-hearted nature. He is a wonderful person.”
Longtime friend Jacob Simon — no slouch himself in the skating department — also attended the unveiling. Simon, 16, has been skating with Brown since the age of 7.
“When I started, he was already really, really good and we had the same coach,” said Simon, a junior at Highland Park High School. Simon and his partner in novice pairs, Lindsay Weinstein, came in fourth place at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Nationals in Boston after winning their category at the Midwestern Sectional Championships in East Lansing, Michigan last November.
Another friend and fellow skating competitor, Sara Harris, also came out for the celebration.
“He was always a superstar when he was a child,” said Harris, who has skated with him since age 8. “He always stood out. He was a great performer and a super-hard worker. He was always kind of at the head of the pack.” Harris plans to attend Dartmouth College and continue her pursuit of skating as a member of the school’s skating team.