The art shanties that drew some 40,000 people to a frozen Lake Harriet last winter won’t be popping up on the ice next year.
The Art Shanty Projects announced Tuesday that after missing out on a major grant, it’s running an $85,000 shortfall and won’t hold its free, multi-weekend festival this winter, as planned. “In our current funding situation, it is not possible to present a 2019 on-ice program along the lines of last year’s program,” the nonprofit told supporters in an e-mail.
But its leaders hope to return to Harriet in 2020.
“We want to keep the momentum going and be back just as strong next year,” said Jason Buranen, co-chair of the board. While the organization has been working to become an annual event, he said, “we have a pretty long history of being not annual. Going every other year has actually been our pattern.”
The chilly event, which began in 2005, has popped up in different spots — Medicine Lake at first, then White Bear Lake. This year’s installation of 21 artist-created ice-fishing houses in Minneapolis drew some 40,000 people, Buranen said. That’s double the event’s previous record and three times its attendance in 2017.
Art Shanty Projects had applied for a festival grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board but learned in July that it wasn’t one of the 15 organizations that nabbed the competitive awards. That meant the nonprofit also missed out on a regional grant that was contingent on State Arts Board funding.
“As a result of this situation, our board is currently grappling with difficult decisions regarding the future of the program,” the board wrote in the e-mail.
Major expenses include a pair of staff positions and stipends for artists and performers, who create the wild-ranging shanties. Last year, those included the Tomb of the Unknown Minnow, where participants held a ceremony to celebrate the life and death of a fish. One shanty hosted an interactive bingo game and another offered notary services.
The nonprofit has been working to become less dependent on grants, which are “unpredictable,” said Buranen, who lives in Minneapolis. Last year, it created a membership program. “We’re definitely seeking to move toward that model,” he said.