Art Search Charlotte Celebrates 1 Year Of Hiding Artwork For Scavenger Hunters
A colorful painting of tropical flowers stashed near a disc golf course. A ceramic, Blue Ridge Mountains-inspired mug hidden away along a nature trail. Necklaces tucked away at a coffee shop.
Finders keepers, all.
For the last year Art Search Charlotte has been planting art around Mecklenburg County for people to discover.
“We physically go out and find a location in town and then post clues, and then people get to go out and search for it,” said Krystal Nelson, who runs Art Search along with local artist Lillian McKenzie. “So, it’s a real scavenger hunt.”
Art Search Charlotte was founded in July 2020 by Chelsea Greer, who has since moved away. Back then, major safety restrictions were in place because of the coronavirus pandemic. Greer’s idea was to find a way to create a socially distanced activity that was fun for participants and helped get the word out about local artists at a time when a lot of people were being cautious about face-to-face activities.
In general, it works like this: Artists reach out to Art Search and agree to donate a work of art. Then, it’s packed in something weatherproof — like a resealable plastic bag — along with some details about the maker and even a note for whoever finds the art. Someone from Art Search then hides that art like a treasure out in the wild.
Over the course of a week, Art Search promotes the donating artist’s work online. Then, usually when the weekend hits, Art Search posts clues about where to look for the art, and the hunt is on. The first person who finds the hidden art gets to keep it.
“It’s yours,” Nelson said. “You get to take it home, display it, share it however you want. It’s been really special to tangibly get artists’ artwork into our community’s hands.”
Over the past year, 53 artists participated.
And now, Art Search is celebrating its first anniversary with a super-sized scavenger hunt Saturday. Instead of one hidden piece of art, there will be 10. On top of that, Art Search has been doing daily giveaways all week with contributions from participating artists. People can stay in the loop and get clues by following @artsearchcharlotte on Instagram.
Usually, Art Search hides the goods in a public park or partners with a local business.
Sometimes, people find the art randomly — and that’s OK, Nelson said.
“We always include a note on each piece that says, ‘You found me’ and what to do in case that happens,” she said. “And it does occasionally happen. We’ll get people saying, ‘Hey, I was walking with my dog, and my dog found this,’ and then we share that with our followers. It’s kind of exciting for them, too, even if they stumble on it.”
In return for keeping the art, finders are asked to follow the artist online and share the word about their work. For Nelson, who moved to Charlotte from Florida last year, setting up the scavenger hunts and connecting with artists has been a great way to explore the Queen City — and she hopes it helps participants get to know the area better, too.
“I’ve learned a lot doing this, and I’m just in awe of our community here,” Nelson said. “I hear a lot of, ‘Oh, Charlotte doesn't have culture, it doesn’t have art,’ but I see — quite obviously to the contrary — we have a really amazing art community in our city and in our state.”