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A Day on the Lake

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This weekend, I took a trip out to the Art Shanty Projects, a temporary community of artist-made structures on White Bear Lake, open to visitors during the month of February. Now in its 10th year, the Art Shanty Projects is bigger than ever, drawing artists and visitors from around Minnesota. Hot coffee in hand, my friend and I trekked with herds of families, couples, and pet dogs onto the ice for the afternoon. In pictures, here’s a review of our time there.

Note: Due to the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having … and the possibility of the lake ice melting, Art Shanty Projects has been moved to the shores of White Bear Lake. All the same fun, just on dry land.

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Right out of the gate, we were greeted by a Matoska Tonka Pedal Bear rolling towards us across the lake. These bears, a cross between a tandem bike and a giant puppet, are powered by enthusiastic visitors pedaling away inside. The bears are a highlight of the projects this year and served as a companion to the performance art piece, Lady Bear the Polar Bear Puppet, by artist Kimberly Ford, performed on Saturday afternoon.

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My friend and I took a spin on a smaller relative of the bear above. About halfway around the lake, I discovered that there wasn’t a chain attached to my set of pedals, and that my friend had been doing all of the leg work — a nice excuse for me to relax, enjoy the ride, and wave hello to another passing bear. Here’s our bear, featured below getting a little TLC.

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The first shanty we visited, “My Home is Minnesota” Shanty, prompts visitors to consider how Minnesota is (or isn’t) home to them. One woman’s practical response: “Where is home to me? Anywhere that’s warm!” Wise words.

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In this collaboration between a poet and a printmaker, visitors are also invited to edit and create written pieces on the subject of home. When we stopped by, Britt, the printmaker, was outside making drawings of her observations of Shanty Town. “My Home is Minnesota” is exemplary of the sort of community-generated art you’ll find through most of the shanties on White Bear Lake.

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That said, “My Home is Minnesota” Shanty’s story is a bit of an oddball: Though most most of the shanties will be dismantled after the festival closes later this month, this structure will have an afterlife at the home of the hobbyist who built it from reclaimed barn wood. As Julie, the writer, told me, this “Frankenbarn” helped tie together another theme for their project – recycling: in this case, recycling of the resulting texts, ideas, wood, and structures.

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When it was time for a snack, we stopped by Chef Shanty, where Jeremy, of Eat on the Loose, was serving chipotle potato salad. The salad found its companion in an on-site potato stamp craft project, the results of which decorated the walls. The snacks and projects in Chef Shanty will change each weekend; chefs from Il Foro and Third Bird will be coming to give demonstrations on a variety of topics, from curing salmon to making sauces. When we walked in, Jeremy was explaining how to grill romaine lettuce.

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From there, we headed to AstroLounge. The artist collective Err asks, “How do people see the universe, and what tools do they use to build their understanding of it?” Here, astronomy and astrology coexist – you can look up your star sign or browse through scientific textbooks. A full program of activities includes tarot readings and conversations with skeptics of astrology alike.

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Here, two people make a wish on a “star.”

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Shanti Shanty: a shanty turned inside-out. One of only shanties whose main feature wasn’t inside, visitors spin this shanty like a Tibetan prayer wheel, prompting meditations on spirituality and our relationship to the environment. To commune further with nature, you can “send a message to the wind.”

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After avoiding the cold for so long, in visiting the Art Shanty Projects it’s nice to tackle the season head-on, and have fun doing so. It’s a great way to get a close to nature, art, and a lively community of artists.

The Art Shanty Projects is open Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 4 pm, February 6–28, 2016. Find directions here.

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