It's been a brutally cold winter so far, and it doesn't look like it's going to end any time soon. So we might as well embrace the season instead of hiding away until April. The Art Shanty Project, taking place this year on White Bear Lake, provides enticements to help make peace with the cold. Here, you can see some art, partake in fun activities, and celebrate winter.
One of the hits this year is the Elevator Shanty or, as performers refer to it, "the totally legitimate elevator." Basically, you go inside, where you'll find doors just like a real elevator. The shanty even simulates the feeling you get when an elevator first lifts off. There are some crazy things that happen with the lights at first, and from there you are taken to your destination, which could be the "infamous" 13th floor or even to outer space. Wherever you end up, you will be sure to enjoy the ride.
Also popular this year is the Pedal Bear, a bicycle-powered giant polar bear that you can ride on the ice. Not only is the Pedal Bear a majestic presence around the lake, but it's also a fun physical activity to try out while visiting.
This year, there's a New-Age theme that various art shanties embrace to lesser and greater degrees of irony. For some shanties, like the Drama/Puppet Therapy Circus-Sami Shanty, there's both seriousness and an awareness of its own silliness. Visitors are encouraged to write down their fears and confessions on cards that line the inside of the shanty, and they are also enticed to perform little scripts created by Playwright's Center's visiting Jerome Fellow, Deborah Yarchun.
The Lost, Found, & Wanted Shanty has a similar participatory element. Here, visitors write down what they've lost, found, or want and tape it to the walls. This shanty is a bit more straightforward, though some people put in jokey responses to the questions.
The Meta Shanty, in contrast, is unabashedly New Age. When we visited last Saturday, participants were being given an earnest presentation on chakras from the book Hands of Light. The shanty will also host presentations on meditation, taro, essential oils, and "snowga" (a.k.a. yoga in snowsuits).
Perhaps the biggest "miss" of the year is the Creep Shanty, which pretty much lives up to its name. The whole gist of the shanty is that you enter, and the performers shame you and/or say really creepy things to you. One might gleefully announce that he just pooped his pants, for instance. Or someone might put a shame sign on you. The way to escape this not very funny and uncomfortable place is to agree to be locked in the closet (which, thankfully, is the exit).
As usual, the Art Shanty Projects has some great activities for kids, like the Jigsaw Shanty, the Curling Clubhouse Ice Shanty, the Noah's Art Shanty, and, of course, the Dance Shanty which is always a highlight for people of all ages.
The Mailroom Shanty provides a great opportunity to write a letter to someone with stationary provided in the mellow, cozy room. The Music Box Shanty is another winner, where you can go in and bang on various objects -- such as garden tools and a gutted piano -- to make a makeshift orchestra.
The main thing to remember is to dress warm and go with some friends, as the whole experience is more fun when you have someone to share it with. Make sure to check out the Art Shanty Project website, artshantyprojects.org
, to get an updated schedule of activities.