Artful ice shanties: An artistic twist on the average ice shack

Published: Feb. 24, 2023 at 5:11 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 24, 2023 at 6:56 PM EST
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - A Brattleboro farm is currently decorated with ice shanties built not by fishermen, but by artists. It’s year three of the Artful Ice Shanties event at Retreat Farm in Brattleboro.

During the pandemic, some people were uncomfortable going to indoor attractions, so the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center decided to bring the art outside. That’s how Artful Ice Shanties was born.

The 16 shacks on display this year were made by creatives across southern Vermont.

Because of the warm winter weather, the shanties are on the front lawn of the Retreat Farm instead of on ice.

The idea comes from a similar but larger annual event in Minnesota. During the pandemic, the museum brought it to Vermont.

“We just love doing projects where we can connect art to everyday life. Like, just reinforce the idea where art is not this special precious thing that only exists in museums and that you have to have special knowledge about to appreciate... creativity in Vermont in general, it’s all around us,” said Danny Lichtenfeld of the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center.

These aren’t your average ice shanties.

“We started with gingerbread house and then went to fairies and then had a little bit of inspiration online, but most of it just came from whatever stuff we had around and our imaginations,” Amy Nelson said.

The shanties are geared more toward whimsy than reeling in a big catch. Sisters Amy Nelson and Anne Murphy built the “Fanciful Flower Fairy Fishery” to chase away the winter blues.

“It was a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Murphy said. “We saw something on the internet and like, obviously we have to do this.”

The intricate details are made of whatever they had on hand, and the longer you look, the more surprises you’ll find.

“We have a grand time when we get going. We get super silly and ideas and ideas and how about we do this? What do you think? Hear me out,” Murphy said.

Other artists we spoke to are ice shanty veterans. Justin Kenney is on year number two. His shanty is called “Labrador Current.”

“I’m a professional artist so I have a lot of names that I deal with, is my excuse,” he said.

Kenney’s shack has fewer flowers but the cone-shaped wooden creation allowed him to immerse himself in the community, and in numbers.

“I guess I got captured by the mathematical challenges,” he said.

Bruce Campbell got hooked with leftover scraps.

“I wanted to build something with used materials I had on hand and I just finished building a shed and I had a lot of these furring strips left over,” he said.

Campbell is retired and builds sculptures in his free time... and ice shanties, too.

“I love making things. So it’s just an excuse to have fun in my studio for a couple months,” he said.

It took him two months to build Twig House and where it ends up remains to be seen.

“If anyone wants it, it’s theirs for the having,” Campbell said.

But Charlie Konkowski plans to use his.

“Kind of a MacGyver at heart, always building things, creating things,” he said.

Konkowski is not big into ice fishing; he says he’s more of a trout guy. But he is big on using the same materials with each build. This is year three.

“These are aluminum plates from printing, recycled aluminum. If you look inside you can see the print that’s still on them,” Konkowski said.

This one, named “Pisces,” comes complete with a space heater, two chairs and a wind indicator.

“I got the Red Solo Cup app on my phone so I can check the wind speed anytime,” Konkowski said.

The shanties are on display now through Sat., Feb. 25, when there will be an awards dance party and barbecue from 5 p.m.-8 p.m. Click here for details.