Shanty in the sanctuary: Nobody seemed to blink an eye at the salvaged ice-fishing shack that took the place of the altar at Peace Lutheran Church in January. (Park Bugle photo by Kristal Leebrick)

When parishioners at Peace Lutheran Church in Lauderdale walked into the sanctuary on Sunday, Jan. 19, they found a large, red particle-board shack had replaced the church altar.

Once Pastor Dave Greenlund took to the chancel, the congregants learned that the structure in the center of their worship space was an art project heading to White Bear Lake for the month of February, where it will be one of 20 dwellings chosen to be in the 2014 Art Shanty Projects.

The sanctuary seemed the more practical space in the church to build the shanty, Greenlund said.

Started by Peter Haakon Thompson and David Pitman in 2004, the Art Shanty Projects’ website describes the event as a month-long “artist-driven temporary community in the tradition of ice fishing communities but with arts-based programming.” It’s a sculpture park, art gallery and community on ice. Each shanty has a theme and involves a lot of audience participation.

The congregants at Peace Lutheran are calling their piece Noah’s Art Shanty, inspired by the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark.

Visitors to Noah’s Art Shanty will be able to create animals out of clay as they listen to storytellers share animal tales from multiple cultural traditions. The clay pieces will be fired each week in Greenlund’s ceramic kilns and put on view in the shanty. Creators will be invited to come back at the end of February to claim their work.

While brainstorming activities for the project, Peg Cavanaugh, arts and worship coordinator at the church, said they tried to think of what kind of materials Noah would have had on that boat full of animals after floating on water for a year.

“What resources would you have on a ship full of animals? A lot of . . . manure,” she said. They plan to have buckets of, er, brown clay (“squishy, but clean”) to create critters for the boat.

The group also plans to have snow and ice sculptures surrounding the shanty and some congregants will camp overnight with other shanty dwellers. Noah’s Art Shanty will be heated by a wood-burning stove and will include holes drilled into the lake for fishing.

The Art Shanty Projects had been installed on Medicine Lake in Plymouth since its inception, but this year the event is moving to White Bear Lake off Ramsey County Beach in White Bear Lake County Park.

Peace Lutheran Church learned that Noah’s Art Shanty was accepted into the Art Shanty Projects in early November, and within days Greenlund found a discarded ice-fishing house in a dump. “It was a miracle,” Greenlund quipped.

The congregation at the small Lauderdale church includes many artists and creative people. The project includes Cavanaugh, an art teacher and props master by trade; Dan Mackerman, a painter and sculptor; Pam Schweitzer, a storyteller; Greenlund, a ceramic artist; and many more.

Other projects that will be featured on White Bear Lake in February include the Mailroom Shanty, a surrealist shanty where “visitors are transported to a lonely hotel hallway for a moment of solitude with an invitation to share anonymous stories”; the Dance Shanty, where participants will be encouraged to boogie down and learn a few dance moves; and the Sunrise Shanty, where small groups of shanty-goers will “share the intimacy and preciousness of watching the sunrise” using a solar-powered dawn simulator.

The Art Shanty Projects will be held on Saturdays and Sundays, Feb. 1 to 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. To find out more and to get directions to the event, go to http://artshanties.com.

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