CDES students take architecture to the ice

UMN College of Design students designed and constructed the first ever “Welcome Shanty” on Lake Harriet Saturday morning.

Performers in the artist group Mixed Precipitation perform Tonya and Nancy: The Opera during the Art Shanty Projects event on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis on Satuday, Jan. 20.

Image by Max Ostenso

Performers in the artist group Mixed Precipitation perform Tonya and Nancy: The Opera during the Art Shanty Projects event on Lake Harriet in Minneapolis on Satuday, Jan. 20.

by Kate Drakulic

Laughter, conversation and exclamations echoed across the ice Saturday morning on Lake Harriet. The opening day of the month-long Art Shanty Projects included an abundance of children in snow pants, dogs in sweaters and 22 artist shanties of all shapes and sizes.

This year marks the 13th anniversary of the Art Shanty Projects, an initiative and community that explores the way public spaces can be transformed into artistic environments. The Project also incorporates scheduled programming of activities and performances such as public art-making, musicals, biking and snowga (snow yoga, obviously).

“A lot of people that come to the Project don’t usually go to art events. The Art Shanty Projects are a lot more accessible and non-threatening. You can interact with artists one-on-one and it levels the playing field … on the ice,” Artistic Director Lacey Prpić Hedtke said.

Notable shanties included “The Tomb of the Unknown Minnow,” a minnow mausoleum shanty dedicated to the minnows lost during the fishing season, “The Thwing,” made up of four giant wooden swings, and “Twin Cities Sailing Club’s Sea Shanty,” which rocked guests back and forth in its boat structure.

“One of the things that is the backbone of the project is the idea of what art can be and who can be artists,” Prpić Hedtke said.

In her role, Prpić Hedtke puts out the call for artists, juries the proposals and supports the artists and their projects. This year, she worked closely with students from the University of Minnesota College of Design in their attempt to create a “Welcome Shanty,” where visitors could go inside to warm up, receive festival information and purchase merchandise.

 Third-year architecture major Alden Jaakola was a crucial participant in the shanty’s creation. 

“We wanted to provide a space for people to be able to talk about the experiences that they’re having at these artist shanties,” Jaakola said.

“If people have a space to gather, it’s more likely that they’ll naturally start to talk to each other, learn more and get more out of the experience.”

Jaakola was one of 14 students who participated in the fall semester workshop dedicated to designing and building the “Welcome Shanty.” Students began with extensive research, basic drafts and diagrams and worked with Prpić Hedtke and Art Shanty Projects staff to refine their designs.

The class completed the shanty at the end of the semester, but continued work last week to install their final design on the ice. The final product is constructed from plastic polycarbonate on all faces, making the structure lightweight and transportable. The transparent faces also allow the sunlight to warm the inside of the shanty, decreasing the need for additional heating sources.

“I think that in a way, it proves as a nice case study for what the College of Design is able to do. It would be really cool to do more of these types of projects, where we’re making something full-scale, because everybody gets so much out of it, but it’s hard for that to happen without a client,” Jaakola said.

With no client to take the piece at the end of class workshop cycles, designs sit in the college’s possession and often go unused.

“It would be nice for people to see [the Welcome Shanty] and think ‘Oh, cool. Maybe my art installation could be done by a class at the College of Design,’” Jaakola said.