Art on ice

Southwest artists abound at Art Shanty Projects 2008

Visitors to the Art Shanty Projects on Medicine Lake are advised to heed that most important bit of winter-survival advice: dress in layers.

A little extra clothing may be more important this year than ever, and not just because of the wind chill factor. At the Abandoned Antarctic Shanty, you just might be enticed to peel off a glove or a hat and leave it behind.

The shanty’s designers, members of Lyndale neighborhood’s Art of This Gallery, are just a few of the many artists with Southwest connections who will transform a frozen Plymouth lake into a temporary exhibition space this month. The winter village has grown this year to include 20 artist-built ice huts, many from first-time participants.

Art of This Gallery’s David Petersen said their shanty was designed to involve audience members in the creative process. They built a kind of mini-gallery, but they’re counting on visitors to fill it up with whatever they can bear to part with.

"If someone leaves their cell phone, that would be awesome — or their iPod," Petersen said.

They might end up with a lot of pocket lint instead, but that’s part of the fun. Petersen expected it would play out a little like the old TV game show "Let’s Make a Deal."

"Let’s see what people have in their bags," he said.

Whittier resident Shanai Matteson is one of three people behind the Ice Museum, an art shanty with a scientific bent. Matteson and her partners will curate mini-exhibits on the science of ice, human relationships with ice and ice-based pastimes.

"It’s meant to be educational, but in a playful way," she said.

Matteson developed the Ice Museum concept with Dane Steinlicht, a coworker at the Bell Museum of Natural History, and Chach Sikes, a multimedia designer for the Science Museum of Minnesota. All three have art backgrounds but "sort of accidentally ended up in museums," she said.

Matteson was looking forward to sharing some of the interesting facts she dug up researching ice, including its many and varied forms. She described a naturally occurring flower form of ice, as well as a "bulletproof" mixture of ice and woodchips developed by the military.

"I had no idea there were so many kinds of ice," she said.

Appropriately, the Ice Museum team is planning a six-sided shanty that will mimic the hexagonal shape of an ice crystal. And unlike many shanties, this one won’t be heated (the exhibits might melt).

By coincidence, Lyndale resident Molly Roth also had a hexagonal shanty in the works. Roth and her boyfriend Jaron Childs joined with a Marine on St. Croix couple to build the Mobile Shanty.

Don’t let the name fool you — Mobile Shanty isn’t going anywhere. It’s meant to be a kind of gallery for mobiles, or hanging sculpture.

"We’re just trying to think of something that would be kind of a nice environment for people to experience," Roth said.

Her shanty team was inspired by "The Weather Project," Olafur Eliasson’s much talked-about 2003 installation piece for the Tate Modern in London. Elliason created an outdoor environment in the Tate’s giant Turbine Hall by installing a large, artificial "sun" and pumping the room full of fine mist.

"The Weather Project" reportedly inspired many museum goers to just lie down and look up — an experience Roth hoped to mimic. She planned to create a "warm and almost womb-like" space where people could relax, and gaze up at the twirling mobiles.

CARAG resident Morgan L’Argent also will do his best to keep visitors to Medicine Lake toasty warm. L’Argent designed the taxi-shaped Warming Shanty as a heated space to wait for rides from the ArtCar Taxi Service.

Many of the same art car drivers who parade through the Lynn-Lake area every summer will be out on the lake, shuttling visitors to and from the shanties and even providing lakeshore tours.

ArtCar Parade organizer Jan Elftmann said it was her drivers’ fourth year out on the ice at Medicine Lake. This year, they’ll be selling warm food and refreshments at the Warming Shanty to raise money for the parade.

The Art Shanty Projects are a highpoint of the season for
Elftmann, even though they take place during some of the most bitterly cold weeks of winter.

"It is just so uniquely Minnesotan," she said. "It’s the only place in the world you can do this."

The Art Shanty Projects opened Jan. 19 on Medicine Lake in Plymouth, about a 20-minute drive from Minneapolis. Shanties are open weekends through Feb. 23, with some events also planned for Wednesdays. For a full listing of activities and directions to the event, visit