What do you do for fun in the dead of winter when temperatures hit arctic levels? If you’re a hearty Minnesotan, you head to the Art Shanties in southwest Minneapolis. If art is more your thing than ice fishing, you’ll find that the Art Shanty Projects are right up your alley.


We interviewed artist Silvana Agostoni about her Opticon project and how she put our Signup Tool to use to help keep herself, her team, and her volunteers warm over the four weekend duration of the Art Shanty Projects (January 18 – February 9, 2020). If you’re in the area, don’t miss this great event!


What is Art Shanty all about?

Art Shanty Projects began in 2004 as an experiment in turning a traditional ice fishing house into a less conventional art studio and retreat on a frozen lake. Over 14 years and three lakes, it has grown into a much-anticipated annual festival that most recently hosted 40,000 visitors on Lake Harriet (Bde Unma) in 2018. The four-weekend event is now home to more than 20 unique shanties and over 150 artists and performers of all kinds. Visitors of all ages embrace the cold Minnesotan winter to explore the shanties, watch performances, interact with artists, and create art of their own.


What you do as a volunteer or volunteer coordinator and how long have you been doing it?

I am an artist that this year created Opticon, a camera obscura surveying a frozen lake. We need volunteers because the event is open form 10 AM to 4 PM for four consecutive weekends, when the temperature in Minneapolis can be extremely cold. With at least six volunteers per day, some of us can take a break for the cold and/or go experience the other projects by fellow artists.




What motivates you to stick with it and any tips you may have for retaining and recruiting great volunteers?

I am not a volunteer coordinator, but as an artist what works for me is promoting the event on social media and getting the community excited about the project so that they volunteer!


Anything we might not know about the Art Shanty Project that we can share with our readers?

Our Team: Lindsay Larsen and Pete Scherf, Charles Buchwald and Silvana Agostoni. Kuma our 5 year old Shiba Inu is the Opticon pet. The Opticon is a camera obscura, a very old idea, and our version is a kind of shared periscope. A mirror and a lens on the roof project an image of the surroundings on a central table in a darkened space. Camera obscuras have been around for hundreds of years, and played important roles in the history of art and photography. They were a popular seaside attraction in Victorian times—kind of the webcams of their day.

By the numbers:

  • Years since the first camera obscura: 2300+
  • Number of permanent camera obscuras around the world: 74+
  • Focal length: 2600mm
  • Brightness: f13
  • Objective lens: 152mm
  • Image circle: 900mm
  • Diameter of the shanty: 10ft
  • Height of the shanty: 13 ft
  • Approximate number of parts: 303
  • Scale models made: 3
  • Upcycled billboards used: 3





Saturdays and Sundays, 10am-4pm, January 18 – February 9
at Bde Unma / Lake Harriet
Suggested donation $10-20
No one turned away!