Southwest HS students create art shanty

Southwest High School students created a project for the Art Shanty Projects festival on Lake Harriet. Photo courtesy Megan Marsnik

A class at Southwest High School has created its own shanty for this year’s Art Shanty Projects festival on Lake Harriet.

The class created a piece entitled “Revolutionary Shanty,” decorating it with their own poems as well as revolutionary symbols and quotes. The students also interviewed people who thought created change in Minnesota and incorporated highlights of those interviews into their artwork.

The students say they hope visitors feel inspired and take seriously that their generation feels that times can change.

“Even though it doesn’t always feel like there’s a lot of hope, our generation feels there is,” senior Claire Moskowitz said.

Moskowitz and the other students designed the shanty as part of Southwest’s Revolution 180 class, which uses creative writing and art to address current events. The class is taught by Cecily Spano and Megan Marsnik.

The class received the actual shanty structure from a former Southwest teacher who participated in the festival a few years ago, Spano said. Their shanty artwork is based on the theme of water, with students noting how the substance is ever changing and shifting.

Inside the structure, the students incorporated pictures of themselves holding short poems they had written. The shanty gives visitors an opportunity to write their own poems and add them to a rotating slideshow.

Moskowitz said she interviewed women’s rights activist Arvonne Fraser, a former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. She said she and the 92-year-old Fraser talked about former Sen. Al Franken and the #MeToo movement as well as about how discourse has changed over the years.

“It was cool seeing someone from a different generation having opinions on things that are so current,” Moskowitz said.

Senior Preston Belcourt interviewed Toki Wright, a rapper and educator who founded a nonprofit that works with war-affected kids in northern Uganda. Belcourt said he asked Wright questions about being African-American in the U.S. and how to go navigate plans after high school. He said the interview left him feeling inspired and motivated to prepare for his future.

Senior Phoenix Pham said he has expanded his art skills through the class, adding that it’s a cool way to learn creative skills normally not taught in school, such as conducting interviews. He said that he hopes visitors learn how one person can make a difference in the world.

The Art Shanty Projects festival runs on Saturday and Sundays through Feb. 11 on Lake Harriet. Visit to learn more.