Looking for some free family fun? The Public Art Treasure Hunt is on again

Jeremy Jones 27 October 2021
Garbage skip bin with art label

The Public Art Treasure Hunt can turn garbage into art. Photo: PeopleLab.

The 10th edition of the Public Art Treasure Hunt is a free, family-friendly activity in Canberra that allows participants to view public spaces through fresh eyes.

Participants place art labels that are traditionally seen in a gallery on everyday items and public spaces, with the main purpose being to transform the public places we often take for granted into places worthy of attention.

In the latest Public Art Treasure Hunt, Canberrans are invited to explore the inner-north suburb of O’Connor. It started last weekend and runs until Sunday, 31 October.

“We wanted to create participatory art which encourages people to stop, look at, and appreciate small things which you might not usually notice, such as coffee stains dried onto the pavement in an interesting shape, a strange object stuck high in a tree where you wouldn’t often look, or a nice place to sit,” says Public Art Treasure Hunt co-organiser Claire Granata.

Art label

The Public Art Treasure Hunt labels give everyday items the title of art. Photo: Ellis Hutch.

“This type of active looking fosters new connections between the community and public space, leading to better civic engagement and involvement with public spaces as people spend more of time engaging with their suburbs and surrounds.”

The adventure hunt will begin at a marquee where participants collect gallery labels designed to direct them around O’Connor.

Using a map, participants will walk around the suburb to locate the specific place directed by the label, snap a photo and email in their findings.

The label is left in place for others to enjoy, while participants return to the marquee to receive their prize of a really nice leaf for completing the mission.

Participants at Public Art Treasure Hunt marquee in Dickson

Participants preparing for a previous Public Art Treasure Hunt in Dickson. Photo: PeopleLab.

“We love it when people really connect with the concept and end up sharing ideas for things we could label for the Public Art Treasure Hunt,” says Claire.

“We once received an email from a previous participant who wanted to share photos of a container of softened butter dropped in their basement carpark, splashed over the ground where there were also some paint stains. The butter splat was actually quite beautiful. They were so excited with their independent finding, and we were chuffed!”

Claire says the community’s willingness to embrace QR codes has made the move to digital a lot easier.

“It is way easier now as people are more familiar with using QR codes,” she says. “Knowing that people can comfortably use QR codes has given us confidence to alter our format from printed to digital maps.”


READ ALSO: Local artist’s colourful posters capture Canberra and encourage vaccination


The event is currently modified for COVID-19 and is accessible for a week. A postal version enables participants to register to either receive the labels in the post and then stick them on the artworks in their own time, or to simply receive the link for the map so they can find all the labels online.

The COVID-19 safe measures were tried and tested after the 2020 lockdown.

“Thankfully we’ve been able to adapt this particular event twice now in different lockdown conditions,” says Claire. “We’ve been able to continue to deliver our public events when other organisations may have struggled.

“During Canberra’s first lockdown, we spent a lot of time creating COVID-19 safe formats for the treasure hunt to ensure we could deliver an event for people to enjoy during these difficult periods when most activities have sadly been shut down.”

To find out more about the Public Art Treasure Hunt and upcoming events, you can follow PeopleLab on Facebook and Instagram.


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