Hamline News

Art Shanties Dressed Up by Hamline Alum


Hamline alumna Dawn Bentley ’95, MBA/Master of Nonprofit Management (MNM) ’14 recently added a new title to her resume, executive director of the local arts nonprofit Art Shanty Projects. Since Bentley’s involvement in Art Shanty Projects, the organization has become a contender for national and international awards and grants, and was recognized as one of 32 featured semifinalists for an International Award for Public Art.

“Her diligent work has garnered a more structured organization which is vital for our continued growth,” Former Art Shanty Projects board chair Esther Callahan said.

Art Shanty Projects is dedicated to expanding notions of what art can be by creating temporary artist-driven communities. This year the program is presented on the frozen surface of White Bear Lake during the cold Minnesota winter. Exploring relatively unregulated spaces, thousands of patrons come together to engage with the arts in an informal, non-gallery environment. Although Art Shanty Projects hosted art shanties and on-ice performances for more than a decade, it was only in late 2014 that it obtained official nonprofit status.

“I’ve used every facet of my nonprofit management degree in my work at Art Shanty Projects,” Bentley said. “Hamline’s Master of Nonprofit Management program helped me become a completely well-rounded leader. It prepares students for the real world and lets them walk the walk in their careers.”

As she was enjoying the challenge of developing nonprofit leadership skills at Hamline, Bentley also earned her Masters of Business Administration as part of the dual degree program offered through the Hamline School of Business. She credits her success to the warm, nurturing environment she experienced as a Hamline student through her undergraduate and graduate work.

As an undergraduate majoring in biology, Bentley was first won over by Hamline’s scholarship opportunities. It wasn’t long, however, before she realized what a difference Hamline’s engaged faculty, staff, and students made to her. She credits this with helping her grow and succeed during her undergraduate career and beyond. Although it’s been twenty years since Bentley completed her bachelor’s degree, her relationships with Hamline faculty are as strong as ever.

“I feel like I can walk on that campus anytime and find a friend,” Bentley said.

Following her undergraduate education, Bentley spent several years working as a National Systems Security Officer for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and scientist at the University of Minnesota, in what Bentley describes as “working with bacteria 24/7.”

It wasn’t until she had children that she transitioned out of the sciences. Bentley found that the skills she developed in the lab translated well to the world of business and nonprofits. On top of that she had always had an interest in the arts, noting her 35 years as a violinist. She returned to Hamline for help in pursuing the next chapter in her career and decided the dual MBA/MNM degree was the best fit for her skills and goals.

“I like my Hamline story,” Bentley said. “I fell completely into the experience and found that the power of being open to the unexpected was a great way for me to approach Hamline as a student.”

Bentley stays in touch with Hamline by working with Alumni Relations and staying involved with the Master of Nonprofit Management’s events and programs. She also makes herself available as a resource to current Hamline students through the Career Development Center where she serves as a professional mentor. By listening and connecting with current students, Bentley hopes to honor what Hamline’s faculty did for her by creating a genuine, holistic, and unexpected experiences.

You can learn more about Art Shanty Projects’ On-Ice program here.