On a recent rainy Saturday, my pal Emmanuel and I put on our galoshes and booked it to the Mission for an art treasure hunt presented by 18 Reasons Gallery, a community foodie/art haven funded by the Bi-Rite family whose name was inspired by a famous sign that once lived in the Mission.
For their annual Hare & Hounds event, the gallery invited artists to create maps that lead to an original artwork hidden somewhere in the neighborhood. Upon purchase of a map, the art is yours to find and keep. Artist Mike McConnell graciously created a preview treasure hunt for us so we could relay the full experience in time for you to participate.
The hunt was on. Our map came in the form of a dainty handmade book of clues created by McConnell, co-creator of Hare & Hounds. The first clue led us to his doorstep so we'd know which bookshop was at the end of his street. It turned out to be the famous Adobe Books where we got derailed in the Back Room Gallery reading Griffin McPartland's text-filled watercolor balloon paintings.
Back on track, we took the Lewis Carroll hint and headed to the fiction section to discover a tiny note that would complete the puzzle on page two of our map.
The woman working at Adobe turned out to be Sonya Derman, another artist contributing to this year's Hare & Hounds who plans to create a more traditional map. We asked her about Griffin McPartland's 'zines and she pointed us to Needles & Pens where we took a detour and chatted with owner Andrew Scott about their terrific new show, You've Got Light in Your Eyes, curated by Meighan O'Toole. When we told him about the hunt we were about to resume, he pulled out another treasure map! Apparently there are many artist-made maps to explore in the Mission. Speaking of maps, you can see more photos from our Hare & Hounds adventure on this Google Map.
Next stop was the Curiosity Shoppe where Sarah Smith's wooden arrows pointed north toward everyone's favorite secondhand store (and our next map point), Thrift Town. After luxuriating in the curiosities of the Shoppe and playing with an ominous fortune teller, we meandered down Valencia, giggling about all the fun we were having. Then suddenly, drama ensued. We'd lost the map.
Steps were retraced and my heart raced, what if I'd dropped it? Someone would snatch it up and find my treasure! More importantly, it was a precious piece of art in itself, and losing it would be lousy. I tried not to burst through the Shoppe's door when we returned to look for it, and I also tried not to squeal when I saw the little map there, safe and sound on the counter. I felt like a jerk, but it was like being in The Goonies, losing a treasure map in the rain like that. And just like them, we prevailed.
Once more hot on the trail of our prize, we headed back toward Thrift Town to discover the name of the artist's studio and favorite color. "Blue Studio!" Emmanuel cried out. Sweet victory.
We sent a text message to an anonymous number for our next clue, which led us to Faye's Video and coffee shop. We declared ourselves "The White Rabbit" as instructed and were handed our final hint on the bottom of a cup. "Czech out one of the artist's (and employees here) favorite films."
Our treasure awaited in a DVD case on the shelves, but which one? Should we "Czech" the foreign film section? There was no foreign film section! Wait, we thought, he's an employee here? Staff picks! The suspense was insurmountable.
Mike McConnell had left us a beautiful drawing incorporating symbols of our day, and it was better than anything we could've asked for. Plus, the thrill of the hunt was totally priceless. He soared to the top of our favorite artist list like a Pegasus with golden wings and a jetpack.
Go to 18 Reasons Gallery on May 16th. It's your turn to hunt*.
*Hunting season begins at 1pm. Fifty trophies will be available.