You might be unaware but amongst the ice fishing houses that populate Medicine Lake in the western suburbs of Minneapolis sprung an art exhibit. I know! Why not an art exhibit on a frozen lake in the middle of a winter? Or as the co-founder of Art Shanty, Peter Haakon Thompson, told NPR’s Weekend Edition, “I think a lot of people are intimidated by museums and galleries, and think they’re going to do something wrong when they’re there. And there’s definitely not that feeling out here.”
I imagine most people have no feeling at all after spending a couple of hours on a frozen lake. When I moved up here in the mid 90’s (years not temp), I visited St. Paul’s Winter Carnival, and I can safely say I had never been as cold as I was standing in the middle of an ice castle in sub-zero weather. Frozen water compounding frozen air, I was instantly aware of the frailty of man. I know it’s every artist’s desire to create a visceral response, but one should never stand in front of an exhibit and ask, “Am I going to die if I don’t get out of here?”
I see no joy standing on a frozen lake, but I do applaud the pioneer spirit of Art Shanty’s mission statement.
Art Shanty is an artist driven temporary community exploring ways in which relatively unregulated public spaces can be used as new and challenging artistic environments to expand the notion of what art can be.
There you have it: The limits of art only curtailed by wind chill on one side and a spring thaw on the other. So what do you end up with? To me it looks like they created a mini-boomtown with a creative flair for amongst the twenty specially designed shelters you have nods to:
CIVIC DUTY: Capitol Hill | Letterpress Shanty | One Room Schoolhouse
RECREATION: Basketball Shanty | Sitandspin Shanty | Ice-Cycles Shanty
ENTERTAINMENT: Naughty Shanty | The Shanty Wonder | Sashay Shantay
Artist, Nathaniel Freeman, told Weekend Edition the conversation with the artist and the audience is focal point of the exhibit: “I think before it was kind of about creating fantastic things to come witness, and now it really seems to be about creating fantastic things to interact with.”
Who wouldn’t want to react with anything with approaching hypothermia? If you go to Art Shanty’s official website and leaf through the photo book, you will quickly notice a wide-eyed enthusiasm amongst the participants, a playful yearning to take a child’s tree house and plop it on a frozen lake. One thing you will notice in all the pictures is not one of the participants is holding a flask. How is that possible? This in itself is an artistic triumph. Success! Accolades! Let us raise our glasses— Shoot!