Photos by Urban Camper
When the cold and snow are as harsh as this winter, the idea of an outdoor art fair sounds less than ideal to most. But, when cabin fever kicks in, anyone stuck indoors for too long understands the need to take drastic action to make the Hibernation Months bearable. Taking inspiration from the omnipresent winter ice fishing communities that spontaneously gather upon frozen lakes and ponds across the Midwest, the Art Shanties Project groups together to various themed ice shanties into a small winter attraction to give warm-blooded (and hot chocolate drinking) Minnesotans something to get through the cold months.
Proposals for these art-minded ice house are selected by committee, and run by volunteers for a few weeks in the dead of winter, creating an outdoor happening which explores the potential of new ideas in community-driven art. As the Shanties’ mission statement explains, “Art Shanty Projects is an artist driven temporary community exploring the ways in which relatively unregulated public spaces can be used as new and challenging artistic environments to expand notions of what art can be.”
Taking place in Minnesota since 2006, and operating every other year to protect the water quality and natural wildlife after the ice’s thaw, this year’s was the first on the ice of the Twin Cities suburb of White Bear Lake (hence the 25 foot, Bear-shaped bicycle-powered Pedal Bear). Each shanties’ theme range from winter-related like Ice Ice Maybe (which encases boutique items in ice) and the history museum/training course Curling Clubhouse Ice Shanty, to more participatory (such as the boogie-down Dance Shanty and the kite-making Wind Shanty) to the more conceptual (the Lost Found and Wanting Shanty, which collects actual lost belongings as well as existential yearnings). Citing artist-audience involvement to the spontaneous community which gathers on the ice as its main goal, the Art Shanties Project “…provides a unique opportunity for artists to interact with their audience, and vice versa, in an un-intimidating, non-gallery like environment.” (via l’étoile)