Over 10,000 view art on Lake Harriet during opening weekend – bringing kites, skates and curiousity


After opening one week late to wait for ice to build on Lake Harriet, the 20th annual Ice Shanty Projects closed after only one weekend. 
“It’s sad for artists like us, who were hoping for eight days on the ice with the projects we’d worked so hard on, and only were able to enjoy two,” remarked Robin Garwood of St. Paul. “I probably put in more than 100 hours of effort to prepare our project this year, and we only got to share it with folks for 12 hours, open and on the ice. So we’re feeling some real heartbreak. For myself, I also just loved those 12 hours that we were open, seeing how much joy our project helped create, and I’m sad that more people won’t get to see it (at least this year, on the ice - we may try to reprise it somewhere else, somehow).”
Garwood was part of the team with his wife, Samantha Price, that created the “NatureGrafter” this year.
 “Weekend attendance was huge, as big as I’ve ever see,” said Garwood. “People were really having a good time with it, ‘getting’ it, embracing the opportunity to be ‘transformed’ into something from Minnesota’s natural world.”
Over 10,000 people enjoyed the Ice Shanty Projects Jan. 27-28, 2024.
Artistic Director Erin Lavelle said, “We initially made a decision to postpone our program opening date and wait for ice to build with incoming subzero temperatures, and it was the right decision, given the information we had available at the moment.” A returning warm spell was behind the decision to take the shanties off the lake. She explained that it was not possible to move into the park (aka Plan Beach) as the ground was not frozen, there was no snow, and they would trample and damage the landscape and make a muddy mess of the shanties. “The safety of artists, visitors and staff, along with preserving the environment and the art, are top priorities for us,” said Lavelle.
“I know that ASP as an organization also suffered from going from four weekends to one. The organization relies on donations from visitors for a big chunk of its budget and only having a quarter of the expected time on ice cuts into that significantly,” observed Garwood, who has created shanties in 2017, 2020, 2023 and 2024. “I know they’re trying their best to put the word out that the organization needs people’s help, and I hope folks step up.”
According to Lavelle, the shortened event leaves them in a precarious financial position, as they rely on donations from visitors to fund the program. “People have already shown up with generosity, offering $33,000 in contributions towards our $99,000 goal for individual donations,” said Lavelle. Of their $190,000 organizational budget, 79% of expenses are dedicated towards paying people including artists, performers, directors, producers, medics, ASL interpreters, audio describers and photographers. The majority of their income is sourced from individuals and small local businesses. Grants and earned income, including food vendor fees and merchandise sales, make up the remainder.
“I think ASP is incredibly valuable for the community. It’s one of the most playful, surprising, engaging public art opportunities in the state,” said Garwood. 
“I also really love the diversity of expression I’ve seen at ASP over the years. I’ve experienced some very deep, introspective projects, which I found pretty moving, alongside projects that were much more about playfulness and fun. Some works have some political content, some are much more about direct sensory experience. I also think it’s great that the organizers do such a good job putting together a robust performance program, not related to the individual shanties, that happens alongside them.
“It’s wonderful that there is no fee for the audience at each shanty, just a suggested donation at the edge of the shanty village, completely negating any reluctance folks might have to participate fully. It’s also wonderful that the artists are paid for our work, enough to not just defray the cost of building the shanties but also some compensation for our time.”
He added, “Art Shanty Projects is amazing, and I hope it keeps going for another 20 years and more.”


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