LAKE GENEVA, Wis. -- A Minnesota team won't be at the U.S. National Snow Sculpting Championship this week after two of its proposed pieces — including one depicting President Donald Trump — were denied due to political overtones and inappropriateness.
The team — state champs Dusty Thune, Kelly Thune and David Aichinger — had created a snow sculpture of Trump last year at the event in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, that showed Trump's hair and neck as a twisted pile of feces featuring his tweets. It was called "Peep" and meant to evoke the president's vulgar comments about African countries.
So organizers clarified rules early this year with sculptors, warning them to stay away from controversial and political designs because the event is family friendly.
Dusty Thune said art should provoke conversation and that's what they are doing.
"I'm a little disgusted that they would censor art over profits. We won our state competition in order to get to nationals," said Thune.
Event organizer Don Berg said they had complaints last year and wanted to make sure the same thing didn't happen this year. It's the first time they've run across this kind of situation in the 34 years of the event, Berg added.
"We are trying to figure out those balances and make sure we don't ruin what we have as an event," he said.
He was "shocked" that Thune thought he put profits above all and disagreed with the assertion, explaining the event is run by a nonprofit.
The team's first proposal called, "Statue of Tyranny," depicted Trump as the Statue of Liberty with a child in a cage beneath him. When that was turned down because of political overtones, they submitted "Descension," which depicted people being moved down an escalator into a gear, which Thune said explored the process of self-destruction through greed and loss of empathy. Berg said the imagery was too extreme and not family friendly.
Fifteen teams from 12 states gather in Wisconsin to compete to be named the best in the nation. A team of Minnesota sculptors who have been to nationals before will take their place, Thune said.
Each team gets a cylinder of snow 8 feet across and 9 feet high to carve with saws, axes, files, scaffolding, shovels and other homemade implements. The entries will be judged Saturday on creativity, technique and message. Competitors choose the winner.
Alaska sculptor Matt Lloyd, also a graphic artist, said he believes in the freedom of artistic expression but doesn't agree that the national competition is the place for Thune's political beliefs.
"We always try to appeal to everybody and anything political is not going to appeal to kids," Lloyd said.
Thune said their sculptures generally weren't political in past years, but they felt compelled to shift gears in response to some of the Trump administration's actions.
As far as next year, Thune's team won the state competition in Minnesota again this year, making them eligible for the national competition in Wisconsin again in 2020.
"It will probably be political if that's still what's going on in the world today because we have something to say we're not going to sit back and sit down and be quiet," Thune said.
Associated Press writer Jeff Baenen contributed to this report from Falcon Heights, Minnesota.