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Art For Cache’s Sake

There’s long been an art to geocaching but now a British group wants it to be an artform in its own right.

To do so, North Yorkshire creative body Chrysalis Arts has initiated its GeoARTcache project, aiming to inspire outdoor recreation and artistic appreciation. Currently, it involves seven artists and 22 hides listed on GC.com – such as GC2PZWQ Gypsey Race – with plans for more to come.

Co-ordinator France-Leigh Hadrysiak says Chrysalis Arts commissioned the scheme in May “as a way to appeal to a crossover of audiences, attracting visitors and tourism to remote rural areas in North Yorkshire”.

“The content appeals to an arts audience and the method of consumption appeals to the outdoors enthusiasts. We also saw a gap in that there didn’t seem to be any arts-based caches in our region and so set out to explore ways of creatively engaging geocaching without compromising it.

“North Yorkshire is the largest county in England and mostly rural so we have plenty of space to create new hiding spots for caches and also have a wealth of intriguing lesser-known locations that have their own hidden stories, history and heritage to explore.”

Hadrysiak (GC handle: geoartcache) began geocaching a year ago and says most of the participating artists are also new to the hobby. “Only two of them had done it before and one of the artists, Stuart Mugridge, had been involved in letterboxing. I was also new to geocaching till I got involved in this project but now I’m hooked!”

Her crew – David Swift, Jackie Calderwood, Stuart Mugridge, Rebecca Chesney, as well as Suzanne Hutton, Michael Branthwaite and Janine Goldsworthy aka rednile – spans a range of artistic specialities, from multimedia displays and  preserving memories to surreal toys and impromptu inventions.

“Each of the artists relished the opportunity and were really keen to engage with geocaching creatively, bringing their own skills and ways of working to the caches and project.”

Among that collection of 22 hides are unusual containers, interactive downloads, FTF prizes including a limited-edition artist book, and even the discovery of a magical creature.

But Hadrysiak struggles to pinpoint her favourite GeoARTcache. “That’s a tough one. Each of the caches has it’s own special draw, whether it be the cleverness of the cache location, contents in the cache – such as sound buttons or a unique workshop experience with the event cache (GC2W9ZG Geo Art Cache Bank Holiday Event) in Ryedale.”

Most of her artists have also created their own blogs to record the geo-art process – such as Mugridge’s Where Spheres Interact site – and Calderwood even has a free iPhone app to complement her five-cache Hunter Gatherer series.

Members of the public and geo-community have also been keen to get in the picture, Hadrysiak says. “We’ve had a great response from geocachers who seem to enjoy finding something different to the norm and the caches themselves are being visited by at least four people a week – even though they are really quite remote.  The harder thing for us has been attracting the arts audience to geocaching.”

Participation is encouraged, whether that be through a geocacher’s found log or some other medium. For Sammi Shepherd of Chorley, Lancashire (GC handle: stormydown), that meant penning this poetic tribute to GC2VEE4 Hunter Gatherer Birthplace (Ingleton):

What did my imagination tell me in this magical place?
As the sunlight flitted through the tress
And whispered brightness onto the leaves
I felt the serenity of this magical place
And let the sunlight kiss my face

The gentle caress of the breeze
And the ripples on the stream
Was that the creature taking shape
Or was it just a daylight dream?

I watched the colours dance on the water
The reflection of Pip, who is my love’s sweet dream
The memory of this place will remain
The scent, the sight, the sun, the name.”

The GeoARTcache project itself is a work in progress for Chrysalis Arts, which has just commissioned two new artists to collaborate on a series of Victorian garden follies-themed caches “in a beautiful wood in North Yorkshire”.

As part of this Follies & Ivy series at Hackfall Wood in Grewelthorpe, Rebecca Chesney and David Swift have framed their work around the backstory of invented character Emily Ivy, a local amateur naturalist, explorer and storyteller – replicating their heroine’s research and creating caches that feature “links to web-based downloads of sounds, maps and imagery forming an insight into Emily’s life”, as well as hard-copy versions to provide “an element of physical and digital finds”.

“Inspired by the follies of Hackfall, Emily has designed fantastical bird and bat boxes which will be recreated by Swift as small sculptural structures and hung from trees near the geocache spots. This means not only geocachers but the general public and walkers can also experience the project,” says Hadrysiak.

“The location fits really well with geocaching as the follies are quite hidden and are all about being part of or experiencing a spectacular view from them.  I’m also creating an event geocache trail for the Blinc: Digital Arts Festival in Conwy, Wales.”

Previous creations by the Gargrave-based organisation include its Slow Art Trail, an environmentally sustainable series in the North Yorkshire Dales which was inspired by the Slow Food movement, and its annual North Yorkshire Open Studios project, offering free arts workshops to the public.

Hadrysiak also hopes the scheme will be adopted internationally in the near future.  “We’d love to work on some collaborative projects internationally and also hopefully inspire others to go out and create their own creative or ‘art caches’.”

*To experience the GeoARTcache project for yourself, visit Chrysalis Arts’ website. You can also search for its theme caches on GC.com, using the keyword ‘geoartcache’. If you’ve found one of the 22 hides, tell us in the comments section below.

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