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What Is Monkeyshines and How Do You Do It?

Community Post Professional Headshot of Community Post December 1, 2019

Started back in 2003, Monkeyshines is already a beloved Tacoma tradition that thousands of people look forward to each year. Home to a thriving arts scene, it’s no surprise that several members of the Tacoma community come together to facilitate and take part in the unique annual treasure hunt. A few of our REALTORS® love participating in the event each year, so we asked them to fill us in on the event!

So, what is “Monkeyshines,” exactly?

“[A local, unknown artist] started it; she remains anonymous,” shares our REALTOR® Brandy Brazeau. “Glass art is blown and hid throughout the city. It was called 'monkeyshines' due to it starting in the year of the monkey.” The artist that started the tradition has only been known as Ms. Monkey and her identity is still a secret to this day!

Few cities have an event nearly as cool as Tacoma’s Monkeyshines, a festival that garners community participation in a way that no other festival in the area does. Monkeyshines usually coincides with the Lunar New Year and entails a massive, city-wide scavenger hunt for glass globes and medallions hidden throughout Tacoma.

Each year, a secretive team of glassblowers creates hundreds of these globes and medallions, all unique, all hand-blown. The glassblowers don’t sign the pieces and prefer to [not] call any attention to themselves. Each piece is stamped with an image of an animal in honor of the Chinese New Year, including snakes, dragons, rams and other Chinese zodiac symbols. Each year's glass is marked with that year's Chinese zodiac symbol, but it's not impossible that you'll find pieces from past years as well if you really look. It's been known to happen.

Thousands of pieces of artwork are created by the secret team, and about 40 people are tasked with hiding the objects around Tacoma. It’s a huge endeavor as “Ms. Monkey” pointed out in this article by The News Tribune, and the labor to create the hidden pieces of artwork is all through time donated by artists. However, they need funds to buy materials, something that they have relied on donations for in the past. Stay informed on their recent activities on their Facebook page here.

So if you’re out hunting for a piece of art... what exactly are you looking for?

Monkeyshines are awesome! So search for hand-blown glass ornaments, orbs, medallions, etc. around popular Tacoma spots. It’s fun for everyone: families, friends, or just alone out for a walk!

The pieces of art are different each year and can be found anywhere in Tacoma. Searching in public spaces is a good place to start, and treasure hunters will often get up in the wee hours of the morning on Chinese New Year to begin their search.

“Monkeyshines is the only time of year I can get my teenage boys out of bed before dawn without argument!” says our REALTOR® Erin Farquhar. “We have learned through the years that certain supplies are required for a successful and comfortable hunt: a flashlight and comfortable water-resistant shoes are at the top of the list!” Excellent tips, Erin!

Erin shares a bit more on why she loves Monkeyshines: “The best part of Monkeyshines is how it has grown into a community-wide event and brings so many people together. Seekers greet each other with a smile and many go beyond to spread love and positivity; some pick up garbage, bring sandwiches to offer the homeless, and many create their own treasures to hide.”

This year’s Chinese New Year is on Saturday, January 25, 2020, so put it on the calendar now and keep your eyes and ears open for more info as the date gets closer!

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