Art Shanty Projects pop up on White Bear Lake

SARAH HARPER | Updated 2/3/2014

Review: A frozen community of artists is making the cold bearable.

The frozen White Bear Lake was hopping Saturday - the local rotary club was running a golf course on the ice, people were hauling boxes of Bud Light from their cars to their fishing holes, and in one outcropping of little shacks, artists were putting the finishing touches on their own shanties, none of which were for fishing.

One of the artists, Sarah Hansen, said a guy who came out onto the lake this morning asked her if the fish were biting good today. Maybe he didn't notice that Hansen's particular shanty was made out of giant puzzle pieces and full of cookies, or that one nearby shanty was really a lavvu, or that one had a curling court alongside it. Who can blame him? There was a lot going on.

The quintessentially Minnesotan and uniquely progressive Art Shanty Projects are making a home on White Bear Lake for the first time this year. In previous years, they've been on Medicine Lake in Plymouth.

It's a juried event, so people have to apply to be able to put their ideas into the form of plywood, paint and 2-by-4s. But you don't have to be a famous artist, or even a professional one, to get a spot. The result is a wide range of shanties. Some have simple premises, others higher-minded; some are built beautifully, others are a tad more ramshackle.

The event is cool (and cold, heh) because none of the shanties take too long: you're in, you're out, you've gotten the picture and you've been reminded that snow isn't just the thing your car gets stuck in. It can be the thing you do yoga (“snowga”) in with the free spirits running the Meta Shanty.

It's not a contest - actually, it's the exact opposite of a contest - but here are some of our favorite shanties from Saturday anyway. Don't miss these gems.

The Pedal Bear: This one isn't technically a shanty, but we're glad the roving polar bear is here. It's like a pedal pub, but replace the pub with a polar bear structure made out of recycled materials with a mouth that opens and shuts. Unlike the pedal pub, no cars will honk at you and nobody will make Facebook pages about how they hate you.

The Ice Ice Maybe: This one was a little awkward, but in a good way. Tiny objects frozen in blocks of ice lay on shelves outside, and if you want one of the objects, you can get it for free. But first you have to be grilled by Lea Devon Sorrentino, who will draw you into a line of questioning about why you want it. “My thought behind it is to create a critical conversation about consuming,” she said.

The Dance Shanty:
The Dance Shanty is one of the project's mainstays, a reliable go-to from year to year. It's pretty simple: they pump up the jams and dance around. Today, the geodesic dome smelled like evergreen, thanks to a little tree propped up. Sometimes all you need to have a good time are some good tunes.

Noah's Art Shanty: The story created behind this shanty is that Noah was a sculptor who used animal feces on the arc to sculpt little animals. We're not in love with the idea of how that smelled, and luckily the stuff they hand out in the shanty is just clay. You make two animals out of a lump of clay and leave them in the shanty. At the end of the month, you can pick up your creation if you want.

The Music Box: This one is a little kid's dream. You walk into the wooden shack and there are a million different ways you can make a noise - bang on pots, pluck piano wires hanging on a wall, ding glass bottles and use flip flops to hit open pipes. Pick up a whackadoo string instrument and let out your inner superstar.