Treasure hunt provides seekers with hope during troubled times

Treasure hunt provides seekers with hope during troubled times
Hillary Hodgson discovers a clue in the Little Library box in front of Avondale United Methodist Church

Obscure landmarks in Avondale set a course for fun, especially in this time of social distancing, as a team of local artists launched a clever treasure hunt in order to provide a sense of hope during the unsettled time caused by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Sponsored by FIGMENTJax, a local branch of a worldwide creative nonprofit focused on promoting community engagement through participatory art festivals, the treasure hunt allowed families and individuals an afternoon’s entertainment without cost, and all while remaining the safe distance of 6 feet apart. 

Headed by Riverside’s Corey Kreisel and Hanna Hadzic, who head the Jacksonville branch of FIGMENT, the hunt incorporated a large-scale sculptural installation, augmented reality, a 140-foot mural, puzzles and poetry and a way to connect with neighborhood surroundings in a new way as participants scoured the Avondale neighborhood for clues during a two-week period at the end of June.

The June treasure hunt is the second two-week neighborhood artistic hunt devised by FIGMENTJax. The first kicked off on April 26 and supplied the nonprofit with much positive feedback from the community. It began with a clue embedded through augmented reality in the mural painted by Shaun Thurston in 5 Points and ended with an installation where treasure hunters who completed the route could leave drawings or writings about their hopes for the future and the changes in their lives during quarantine. One note read: “Inspiration has been difficult to come by in the last few weeks and being cooped up indoors doesn’t really help get the creative juices flowing, but seeing projects like this excite and give me hope for when this has passed.”

“The treasure hunt provided a shared experience and provoked collective insights while prioritizing the safety and health of our community. It offered a way to connect with the world during these uncertain times and illustrated the power art has to promote collective unity,” said Kreisel, who along with Hadzic graduated from Douglas Anderson School of the Arts in 2018.

Launched June 20, with the first clue appearing on @FIGMENTjax Instagram and Facebook, the hunt was available to everyone in the community for two weeks. All clues included a blurb about the project, FIGMENT’s leave-no-trace principles, and the group’s contact information. 

The first clue, which appeared on social media, was a picture of a sign, requiring treasure hunters to look closely to identify its location as one in Boone Park next to the South playground. Upon heading to that location, hunters discovered a laminated welcome plaque taped to the back of the sign with the first clue, a riddle that read “Your journey starts in the park and ends in the hidden forest – but first, think like a tourist and go where gold, yoga, and fruit all have an arrangement.” 

Upon making their way to the Avondale Shoppes, hunters discovered a clue taped to the side of the Edible Arrangement’s building where a picture depicted an old man, a school house, scissors and a  store front, causing participants to put together that the next clue would be found at the Old School Barber Shop down the road. 

A aluminum butterfly rests on the vines in “The Human Cocoon,” the grand finale of FIGMENTJax’s Avondale treasure hunt.
A aluminum butterfly rests on the vines in “The Human Cocoon,” the grand finale of FIGMENTJax’s Avondale treasure hunt.

Other locations with planted clues included the little library in front of Avondale United Methodist Church, and the painted fence which was created by several artists from FIGMENTJax and a local artist collective, The Kinetic Hamlet, at the corner of Talbot Avenue and Park Street. 

Adorned with Jacksonville’s first original augmented mural, the 140-foot fence was a place where treasure hunters were directed to download the Artivive augmented reality (AR) app. Using the app, they were able to decipher several scannable images throughout the mural, which pointed towards a billboard down Park Street where a large wooden board with tennis balls glued spelling out the word “clue,” sat close by. The wooden sign directed treasure hunters to the Boone Park tennis courts where participants found a QR code to scan with their smartphones that brought up a pirate’s treasure map of Boone Park. Upon following the map, participants discovered clues that were marked by small sculptures until finally ending up at Gina Matinelli’s art and music studio on Pine Grove Avenue. There around the neck of the Jaguar statue in Matinelli’s front yard were the instructions to follow the big cat’s gaze toward the “hidden forest,” a small, undeveloped plot of land beside Little Fishweir Creek and Boone Park, and there the “grand finale,” the hard-sought treasure lay.

Because the treasure hunt was devised by the artists of FIGMENTJax, it stands to reason the treasure was not gold or silver, but an art installation titled “The Human Cocoon.” And that is what Avondale hunters discovered, a spacious structure made of bamboo and vines that was decorated with butterflies made from recycled cans. Anyone who made it to the end was invited into this secret lair, where a special cushion was provided and participants were asked to follow a guided meditation left on canvas written by Bryn Glennon, a local poet. 

“The cocoon and meditation invited participants to reflect on their relationship to change and to embrace uncertainty and growth in these turbulent times, to realize we are constantly evolving and in a state of change, capable of transforming ourselves, expanding and adapting,” said Kreisel.

This is Bryn Glennon’s treasure within FIGMENTJax’s “The Human Cocoon.”

You’re in a river
wide enough that you can’t see the banks of the shore
the current is strong, pulling you with it
you know if you fight it, it will pull you under

feel your lungs expand as you float onward
bring your attention to this question
if change is constant, how are you changing right now?
and you envision your cells multiplying and dying off
can you feel the effect of gravity on your skin, weighing you down
can you see inside yourself the blueprint of a new day
a metamorphosis
a grand reinventio

if you think you’ve stayed the same
maybe you never crawled out of that cocoon
afraid of the growing pains
so you judged and cast blame
left it all to decay
as the mid-transformation was halted

Wouldn’t it feel better to emerge,
flee from your temporary home and
you are evolving, moment by moment
you are not who you have been
you are who you are becoming.


now listen to the sounds around you
can you hear nature call?
can you feel your heartbeat,
your lungs,

the position of your body in the cocoon?
ruminate on your experience
take some time, close your eyes
and only emerge once you feel transformed

By Marcia Hodgson
Resident Community News

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