Photos Courtesy of Art Shanty Projects
The Art Shanty Projects (ASP) in Minnesota may be the coldest artist’s residency on the planet. For four weekends each February, small groups of artists venture onto a frozen lake in the metro area of Minneapolis-St. Paul and live in hand-built shanties, welcoming visitors from all around. Artists are given a grant to construct a shanty in the spirit of the ice fishing shacks common to Minnesota lakes in winter and to put together some kind, any kind, of artistic programming. Visitors must be able to interact with the shanties and the artists.
Artists need not have an artist’s resume. As a writer, I certainly didn’t when I helped put together a shanty that was an art book reading room and poutine shop acting as a front for a Quebecois separatist operation one year and a circuit-bending shanty powered by a homemade wind generator another year. In the 15 years since a small group of artists lived in one shanty for a month making art together, the project has expanded to 20 shanties produced each year, with hundreds of artists participating (grants are also awarded to performers and performance artists to produce work outside on the ice each weekend). Thousands of people brave the often below-zero temperatures to visit what is one of the largest free exhibitions of public art in the country.
Shanties have run the gamut from a dance club shanty to a sauna shanty to a project where a group of Canadians honored explorer William Shackleton’s polar exhibition by living and doing arts programming in a huge overturned boat, complete with a potbelly stove, for four weeks.
With a recent influx of funding, ASP’s grants for artists have grown, and there are only two days left to apply to be a part of building this temporary, artist-driven community. Professional artists and those who don’t consider themselves professional artists alike are encouraged to apply, says ASP Executive Director Dawn Bentley, “One of our goals is to expand the notions of what an artist is.”