A Tacoma Annual Tradition Hunting for Monkeyshines: A Look at the Citywide Guerrilla Art Hunt
It’s Chinese New Year which means... Monkeyshine season is upon us in Tacoma! If you haven’t heard about it before, it’s an annual guerrilla art hunt where local artists hide a couple thousand glass orbs and medallions stamped with the Chinese Zodiac around the city.
Originally, it was started by someone known as “Ms. Monkey” and a friend who wanted to create joy and excitement for residents during our long grey winters. While deciding what they were going to create and hide, they were inspired by Ms. Monkey’s friend’s brass stamp he had created with a monkey on it. With access to a hot shop and donated glass, they decided stamping glass balls was the perfect creation. Plus, it would also pay homage to the city’s glass roots. From there, they created 200 creations and with a cohort of volunteers they hid them around the city. Here’s a peek at what some of them look like!
Their idea was a hit right from the bat, even with some initial confusion. Apparently the finds were being confiscated at first because they thought they had been stolen from the glass museum! After a very buzzworthy first year, Ms. Monkey’s crew decided to commit to hiding what would be known as “monkeyshines” each year for 12 years to complete a cycle (and later another cycle). How fun right?! You can learn even more about the back story of the tradition in this great article from Joanna Kresge of South Sound Magazine including an interview with Ms. Monkey herself.
Since then, the event has continued to evolve and others have decided to join in the fun including, now infamous, Marble Man who leaves marbles and others who leave their own gifts of charms, bracelets, and painted rocks to name a few. Adding even more treasures to be found! There aren’t any formal rules, but you can find monkeyshines in public places around the city and be sure to keep the honor system of 1 per person (that is if you’re lucky enough to even find one!)
Last year was my first year of hunting for monkeyshines and while we didn’t find anything, it was a really fun day of exploring the city — especially because we’d just moved. You could say we fully embraced the original mission of the event! That was also the day we ended up discovering my favorite brewery, 7 Seas Brewing (where I just celebrated my 30th Birthday party at)!
This year, I was lucky enough to (unsuspectingly) come across a red envelope with a pig charm inside too! I also walked by a guy who found a really gorgeous glass ball in Wright Park! So there are definitely treasures to be found out there! I’ve been keeping up with the hashtag on Instagram of finds too! No matter if you find something or not though, remember to enjoy the hunt and this great city because that’s where the real fun is!