The Art Shanty Projects are only in their fourth year, and already the festival on ice is a beloved midwinter tradition. This ephemeral artistic community offers an ingenious reinterpretation of the great Minnesota pastime of ice-fishing and, specifically, the temporary (but often elaborate) shelters the fishermen use to house themselves on the frozen lakes. ASP began as the brainchild of artists Peter Haakon Thompson and David Pitman and has evolved into a creative extravaganza where artists construct fanciful, sometimes gorgeous, but always fun “art shanties”, and put them on the lake. Then, they open their doors to us, the public, and invite us to come out and join them there. If you take these artists up on their invitation and head out to Medicine Lake a family-friendly wonderland awaits you: you can learn how to knit, investigate pinhole camera photography, relax in the Vista Shanty’s living room, see the art cars, hang out for storytime in a shanty devoted to kids, sing a little karaoke, and much, much more. a+E asked the co-founders of Art Shanty Projects, Peter Thompson and David Pitman to keep a personal diary of the opening weekend of this unusual arts event. If you’re anything like us, when you read their dispatches, you’ll hardly be able to wait for the weekend so you can head out with the kids to Medicine Lake so you can see these wonderful shanties for yourself. Peter Thompson’s Diary from the Art Shanty Projects: The first weekend Day One: Saturday, January 13 We’re on the lake! After consultation with the Water Patrol we determined there was 9” of ice—enough to get us off the beach and onto Medicine Lake. We had been prepared to move to the beach if we had to, but it was depressing. Of course, it got brutally cold just before the opening, making it harder for the artists to finish their setup. The weather reminded us that the lake is a harsh environment, something that has to be felt to be believed. The first day was a bit of a blur, the way openings can be. I talked to a million people—none for very long—and answered countless logistical questions and gave directions on the shanty hotline. It all makes me long for the days I’ll be able to just hang out in my shanty during the week, have a few visitors, and read books. Here are impressions that stand out from opening day: Hearing the news that there were 18 people in Mike Hoyt’s Norae Shanty singing karaoke, and watching Andy Sturdevant’s “Medicine Lake History Tour,” complete with marching band, and hearing them finish with a group rendition of Battle Hymn of the Republic. Seeing people lying on the ice in contorted positions as they were traced by the artists of the Soft Lake Shanty with food coloring. The guy who came out to knit in the Knitting Shanty, the poets reading in the 10,000 Artists on a Lake Shanty… just being able to look around at the visitors checking out all of this amazing work and effort created by the artists. Finally at the end of the day the light changes and twilight starts. That is one of the greatest things about being on the lake all day, watching time pass through changes in the light. Day Two: Sunday, January 14 Woke up on the ice (in the shanty actually)—my first night on the ice of the year. I went out for breakfast with Liz and Mike and Sarah of the Norae Shanty. We came back to find people arriving to see the project. A mellower mood today than Saturday. Today’s highlights: The home made wind generator on top of the Pinhole Camera Shanty is amazing, artist ingenuity at its finest; The Shanty of Misfit Toys with its crazy assortment of stuffed animals, visitors skating around the shanties, four-wheelers cruising by checking it all out. One great thing from this whole weekend has been seeing many of the same visitors from last year and people who live on the lake that I only see at the Art Shanty Projects. The day ended perfectly, when it started to snow just after the sun went down. I love being on the lake when it is snowing, it feels more like an Antarctic research station, far away and more remote than it really is. David Pitman’s Diary: There are two places out here on the ice. This morning I walked out into one with the dog, Bell. We set out across the frozen expanse with a ball, in no particular direction. The snow was at our back as the ball launched in a more or less northerly direction. The other place out here on the ice echoed in my mind as we walked. The day before the sky was blue and the sun visually warm, and the Art Shanty Projects was alive. I recall sitting in K-ICE Studios, looking out the window and seeing a boy, about six, walking by with a piece of ice. It was almost too large for him to carry. He was with some adults on his way to the OurBrr Shanty. It was like he wanted to take part of the lake with him. On the way back, with the snow in our faces our direction was more intentional. I thought about 86-year old Elden, and his stories about the lake when there were very few houses. Today, he was on Medicine Lake for the first time in 25 years. He used his arms to tell us stories about how he fished from flat-bottom row boats with his dad in 1934. The two places out here merge to make the whole experience: it takes both the solitude of the weekdays and the energy and crowds of the weekends. We share the lake with the kite skiers and the snowmobilers. And the fisherman are here all the time, augering holes and toting their sleds across the frozen surface. The Art Shanty Projects will run through February 17, and most shanties are open all day on weekends, with a full roster of fun events sure to entertain and delight everyone in your family. Check in regularly on mnartists.org and on www.artshantyprojects.org for an up-to-date schedule of events.
check out the Art Shany Projects mnartists.org site too.
Art Shanty Projects 2007
mnartists.org's collection fwith details and images from all the 2007 art shanties on Medicine Lake.
Art Shanty Projects official website
A one-stop resource on the latest events, weather information, and happenings on the lake in shanty-town.
The Soap Factory
Website for The Soap Factory, a sponsor of the Art Shanty Projects
Peter Haakon Thompson's website
Find out about Thompson's own artwork and another of his community efforts to support the arts, The A Project