As the rest of the city celebrated the first burst of spring this weekend, George Li wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to winter.
At 4 a.m. Sunday, the Boston resident was restless and couldn’t sleep, so he trekked down to Boston Common, armed with a shovel and a creative urge, and started digging into the last of the snow piles dotting the public park.
Seven hours later, Li had turned the dirt-sprinkled ice mounds into a sculpture that read “B Strong,” a catchphrase that summed up the city’s resilience after the 2013 Boston Marathon terror attack.
With a difficult winter over and the trial of the bomber under way, Li wanted to put up a welcome sign for spectators and runners attending this year’s Marathon.
“With so many events going on — the trial, the Marathon, the end of the snow season — everyone was sick of winter, and putting it behind them, so I decided to build it,” Li said of the manmade sculpture. “It means so many different things to so many different people.”
The frozen art appeared Sunday on a day when residents finally swapped their snow pants and gloves for shorts and sunglasses.
Passersby stopped to snap photos and talk with Li as he toiled away, packing the snow higher and higher, and carved the letters into the mound.
“At first, people thought I was a maniac, because I was out there in the sun, shoveling up a snow pile with the leftover snow,” Li said.
But as the mound took shape, people stopped thinking he was crazy and started appreciating his work.
Some even spontaneously stopped to get involved, helping him complete it. That help came from residents like Sergio Kinsala, who was walking his dog through the park when he spotted Li.
With no background in sculpting beyond the snow figures he constructed with his 4-year-old son this winter—he built characters from the Disney film “Frozen” near the entrance of the public park — Li welcomed the extra hands.
Li said he planned to keep an eye on the sculpture, adding snow to it when he can, so that it will remain standing until next weekend, prior to Marathon Monday.
“I think it encapsulates what everyone is feeling in Boston,” Li said.Steve Annear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.