Artful ice shanties on view this month at Retreat Farm

Inaugural event celebrates ‘the delightful possibilities of winter’

BRATTLEBORO — Most New Englanders have seen ice shanties on frozen lakes, but few, if any, have seen an ice shanty shaped like a fish - not to mention a stovepipe hat, a wishing well, or a wedge of cheese.

The Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (BMAC) and Retreat Farm present all this and more in the inaugural Artful Ice Shanties Design-Build Competition, which organizers describe as “an outdoor celebration of the delightful possibilities of winter.”

More than a dozen artistic and ingenious ice shanties will be on view at Retreat Farm from Saturday, Feb. 13 to Sunday, Feb. 28. Visitors are encouraged to check them out anytime between dawn and dusk, and to pair their visit with free activities: ice skating on the Retreat Meadows (conditions permitting) or walking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing on the trails at Retreat Farm.

Masks and social distancing will be required. Museum staff will serve complimentary hot cocoa on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Among those who have constructed shanties are sculptor Bruce Campbell, artist Myles Danaher, avid ice fisherman Stephen Haisley, Charlie Konkowski, elementary school teacher Rachel Mangean, muralist Craig Roach (in collaboration with signmaker Peter Poanessa), Slipstream Farm, and Winchester Design. Grafton Village Cheese will present a cheese-shaped shanty.

A panel of local judges will bestow a variety of lighthearted awards at an outdoor ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 14, from noon to 1 p.m. at Retreat Farm.

The competition “showcases the artistic talent and creative ingenuity of the Brattleboro region and honors the enduring tradition of ice fishing at the Retreat Meadows,” BMAC Director Danny Lichtenfeld said in a news release.

The event is presented in connection with two BMAC exhibits on view through March 6, “Ice Shanties: Fishing, People & Culture” and “Erik Hoffner: Ice Visions.”

“This is something we've been thinking about doing for a long time,” Lichtenfeld said. “Years ago, we learned of a similar event that takes place every winter in Minnesota, and we began thinking about how we might adapt it for Brattleboro.”

“Now, with the pandemic driving us outdoors and two ice-fishing exhibits on view at the Museum, the timing seemed right,” he said. “We're very grateful that the team at Retreat Farm was willing to give it a go.”

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