It is true Minnesotans know how to do winter. The annual kite festival on the frozen Lake Harriet one weekend; winter Carnival in St Paul the next, or an entire month of an interactive art festival in Art Shanty Projects on White Bear Lake. There is no shortage of winter activities in Minnesota to combat your seasonal affective disorder.
The surface of a frozen lake may seem an unlikely space for hosting an art festival but that’s exactly what happens every weekend in February on White Bear Lake. The Art Shanty ‘transforms a lake surface into a creative community space that is part of art gallery, part art residency and part social experiment,’ according to the organizers. Think of it as Burning Man on Ice, and in fact, Burning Man, the motherload of interactive art and community event attended by 70,000 in the Nevada desert each summer, has been an Art Shanty Projects sponsor.
Art shanties have existed in some shape or form for over ten years now but since 2014 they have been granted a spot on the frozen White Bear Lake (with contingency plans on the shore if ice conditions are not favorable.)
About 20 art shanties (the concept of shanty inspired by small portable hut typically used as a shelter during a popular Minnesota winter pastime, ice fishing) are selected by a jury each year. The projects involving artists from a wide genre – from architects to puppeteers - are selected based on criteria such as participant engagement, and environmental considerations of the host lake. The shanty themes in recent years have ranged from shanti shanty – design motifs on a structure inspired by Tibetan prayer wheel – to Slumber Party shanty – elevated bunk with a friendly monster under the bed.
Street life or use of open public spaces may be limited during the long Minnesota winters but Art Shanty Projects and festivals like this provide the welcome outlet needed for an engaging and connected community.
A group of Minneapolis Instagrammers recently gathered at Art Shanty Project on White Bear Lake.
A visitor at Art Shanty looks on as Matoska Tonka (Big White Bear in Dakota language) pedal-bear rides by. The 20 ft wide 10-ft high pedal ride is made locally in Minnesota of mostly recycled products by local artists.
Everyday artifacts collected from across the region expressing Minnesota character and identity. Visitors are invited to express memories by words and drawing on the walls of this shanty.
While Art Shanty Projects are meant to be experienced when the shanties are open during the day, the after-hours provides a unique experience worth checking out as well.
A secret entrance, a bunk bed on ice, a friendly monster under the bed, and books to read and games to play in bed? Sign me up.
Food-themed interactive projects bring out the chef in young and old.
Participants created art evolved from an empty frame to a maze of overlapped, threaded colored strings.
While this shanty was planned well before the last US elections, Justice Shack turned into a soap box reflecting the current political environment. Participants are encouraged to leave a note to their elected officials which will be delivered to them at the end of the festival.
A shanty for the literary types. Poetry reading, writing exercises in a fun bus. A stationary stationery perhaps?
Remains of a space ship or a book club from the future? Sci-Fi Book Club escape pad is your shanty for sci-fi books, imaginative extraterrestrial drawings and writing letters to the future.
A dance floor like no other. Breaking barriers between strangers through sound and music, the Dance Shanty is a popular spot to warm up after and before a day on the ice.
Words and photography by Waqar