More than 150 years after statehood, there are still territories to be conquered in Minnesota.

The modern-day settlers at the Art Shanty Projects have creatively taken over frozen Medicine Lake in Plymouth. For four weekends (through next Sunday), a group of 20 ice-house shanties has become a makeshift community offering an interactive art experience.

The concept was created by local artists David Pitman and Peter Haakon Thompson in 2004.

"It's like having a fort for adults to hang out in," said Thompson, suggesting that the novelty of the setting helps attract visitors.

Within the borders of Shantytown, there's transportation by bicycles decked out with an ice skate instead of a front wheel and a daily Shantyquarian newspaper. At town meetings, laws outlawing grumpiness and instituting a 30-minute workday have been passed.

The enforcement of those decrees falls to on-ice coordinators Kelsey Nelsen and Alicia Dvorak of the Department of Everything Else. They issue citizenship cards, SSNs (special shanty numbers) and administer first aid. Without electricity, the two have found that tasks such as cooking oatmeal for breakfast take hours. Nelsen greets guests to their toasty shanty with: "Welcome to Shantytown, where the streets are paved in ice, everything is possible and all things are probable."

Now that's the pioneer spirit!

Sara Glassman • 612-673-7177