If you’ve spent much time around Texans, you know they can be wary of people who live in cold climates. It’s not that they say anything overtly negative to their northern neighbors. They’re bred to be good hosts, after all. No, they’re likelier to show subtle suspicion wrapped in sweetness. Talking about winter, they may say,”Oh, you poor thing.” But deep down they’re wondering exactly how off-your-rocker you really are.
As a girl who grew up in Austin and moved to Minneapolis as an adult, I know what I’m talking about. I myself was terrified when the opportunity to move came my way. People often ask what brought me to Minnesota, a state known for snow. The answer is exactly what you’d expect: A man. But that was sixteen years ago. He didn’t last, and my reasons for staying outnumbered the original, anyway.
I Discover the Art Shanty Projects
Take last Saturday. My boyfriend and I wanted to take the golden retriever for a walk. He suggested the park reserve, but I’d heard about an annual event called Art Shanty Projects and was dying to check it out. Fortunately our girl Frankie is happy to accompany us wherever we go.
We were intrigued to find out what an “artist-driven temporary community in an unregulated public space” looks like. Not to mention: On ice! After checking for no-dog policies, we broke out Frankie’s leash, donned our boots and hats, and made the twenty-minute drive to White Bear Lake.
The event proved as delightful as I’d imagined. It was upbeat and quirky–complete with electronic music, a coffee-themed food truck, and a dinosaur pedicab. Every bit as charming, though, was the fact that the event exists at all. There’s deeper meaning there.
Feeling Sad? Find Comfort and Take Action
As humans we can’t escape heartbreak. On some level we’re all grieving something we’ve lost. Anxiety and depression have found their way into our everyday. And many of us are struggling with post-presidential despair. (Just because I made it up, doesn’t mean it’s not real.) As you know there’s no quick fix. That leaves cultivating practices for succor and action.
For me, one of the most effective is art. Whether you make it or view it doesn’t matter. Either way, I’m here to nudge you to take part somehow. Find a way to let it comfort you, or use it to comfort someone else. I, for one, was glad to have the Shanties to remind me of art’s power this weekend. Here’s what I learned.
4 Warm Things a Frozen Lake Taught Me About Art
1. Art Doesn’t Need Permission (and Neither Do You)
You’re talking to a woman who’s spent way too much of her life worrying what people think. (Wait. You do like me, don’t you?) My instinct is to seek permission to do things, a habit I’m working to break. Half the time I feel guilty for sharing my ideas in a meeting, even when I have years of experience to back them up.
I can’t tell you how joyful it makes me to see art happening, no matter what. Yeah, it might be so cold outside we’re standing on a lake, but artists don’t care. “In your face, gray weather,” they say. Take the guy who built the arcade. Though I never spoke to him, his work alone tells me he’s determined not to let winter get him down.
If a solar-paneled air-hockey arcade doesn’t demonstrate winter joy, I don’t know what does. That’s right. The guy constructed an ice house just so he could display a full-sized air-hockey table, powered entirely by solar. Art doesn’t need permission. And neither do you.
2. Art Gives Us Voice
I’ll tell you who else wasn’t concerned about getting permission: the ladies who made the Justice Shack, a structure devoted to encouraging social action. As their hand-painted chairs pointed out, the goal was to speak truth to justice and listen with curiosity. Thanks to their interactive experience, dozens of people discussed issues like immigration, women’s rights, and the environment.
When you walked inside the cozy room, two smiling women handed you a clipboard with a blank postcard. They gave you a marker and invited you to write about an issue that matters to you. The walls were covered in messages of hope, healing, and yes, anger. A stated goal of the Art Shanty Project is to promote inclusion and joy. Surrounded by the Justice Shack’s turquoise-and-yellow expression of community, I got a palpable sense of both.
3. Art Helps Us Imagine
My sense of joy continued as we wandered to the spaceship. It would never occur to me to build such a thing, which is precisely why I find it so satisfying. Firmly rooted in a lifestyle of adulting, I don’t often take the chance to imagine like a kid. But the second I stepped inside, it was impossible not to do so.
This rig was decked out with everything you’d want in a spaceship–golden walls, a huge control panel, seats for pilot and co-pilot, and a clear view of the journey ahead. As Linton Bergsen points out in Conscious Lifestyle Magazine’s “The Gift of Imagination: Using Your Visionary Power to Create Your Dream Life,” imagination prepares us for success. “You cannot create anything you want from life if you cannot see it as a possibility. Period.”
I love this quote. It reminds me that, whether I want to pivot my career, improve a relationship, or fight injustice, I need to practice imagining. Since I’m going after all three right now, I’ll take any strategy I can get. It’s too easy for me to get stuck in a mode of doing, without letting my mind meander a bit and envision what’s possible first.
4. Art Teaches In a Way Rhetoric Can’t
How many times this week have you heard somebody complain about somebody else’s rhetoric, political or otherwise? Though healthy dialogue is a critical component in democracy and interpersonal dynamics, you know talk gets tiring. Sometimes we have to let art to communicate for us. The makers of the Vehicle of Expression know this. These artists created their own metaphor, a plea for the virtue of words. Not only did their dressed-up vehicle feature a huge keyboard, but they also provided a functioning typewriter. Perched silently on ice, it invited people to sit, grab some paper, and put their feelings into words. (Poetry! Stories! Blogs! There are more effective ways to connect than shouting.)
But speaking of speech, I’ll leave you with this. How can I not love an event that actually encourages me on to my soapbox? Now, it’s your turn. What is it about art that inspires you? Feel free to share in the comments!