Art Shanties

Artist: Jennifer Pennington
Location: White Bear Lake, Minnesota, USA
Year of completion: 2009
Researcher: Laine Bergeson

Art Shanty Projects is an artist-driven, temporary community that pops up on a frozen Minnesota lake every February. Comprised of artist-designed ice houses (similar in style to those used for ice fishing), the project is dedicated to exploring how the unregulated public space of the frozen lake can be used in new and challenging ways, expanding notions of what art can be.

The project aims to be an art gallery (without the intimidation factor), artistic residency, and interactive and community experience all at once. The installation is unique in that it allows artists to interact with their audience—and the audience to interact with the artists. The project started with just two shanties in 2004, and grew to 20 shanties and 20,000 visitors in recent years. It is open to the public every weekend during the month of February.

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With an emphasis on both the artistic process and the quality of the product, the ASP encourages artists to push their own artistic boundaries. Each shanty must be self-governing and respect the environment of the lake and the community of neighbors and fisherman that already inhabit the space. Artists are given flexibility and autonomy in the creation process, allowing for the full realization of their ideas. Audience engagement is considered essential to the success of the experience, for both artist and audience.

Artists can engage audiences in an active way—with craft projects like knitting or singing Karaoke or solving puzzles—or in a more passive, traditional gallery-esque way.

In 2012, a variety of different shanties popped up on the lake. “Naughty Shanty” by artists Sarah Honeywell, Aneesa Adams, Marieka Heinlen, Angela Maki-Jones, and Mo Honeywell, featured peep-holes that reveal tiny, naughty scenes inside; naughty fortunes; and naughty little games, like “who stole the cookie from the cookie jar.” There was also a slingshot-making station and a candy cigarette dispensary.

“Basketball Shanty” by artists Sarah Baker, Beth Chekola, Jess Hirsch, Eamonn McClain, and Sam Hoolihan, served as a locker room warming hut where visitors could explore locker room dynamics “halftime performances” by Body Troupe, re-enactments of Teen Wolf, and pep rallies with live marching bands. There were also motivational pep talks by various artists, game plans, towel snapping, team photos, and trophy displays.

Lauren Herzak-Bauman, Megan Wicker, Molly Balcom Raleigh, Alex Newby, Abigail Merlis, and Areca Roe created “Fort Shanty,” a space to recreate the imaginary and intimate places we made as children. Visitors were encouraged to build their own forts using an array of pulleys, pillows, and ropes. The shanty also featured a nap hour, where you could curl up and rest in the fort you built; a snack time where visitors were encouraged to play with their food and then eat it, and a story hour with participatory sing-alongs for both adults and kids.

Just three of twenty varied and creative shanties, these projects brought people together in a public space to engage with art—and each other—in the deep midwinter.

All copyright belongs to Shanghai Academy of Fine Arts, Shanghai University.

Progress Agency