On January 26 there’s a lot to celebrate: Australia Day, India Day (the national equivalents there of Fourth of July) and, this year, Chinese New Year. And for those in the know here in Tacoma, that means Monkeyshines.
Monkeyshines, for the uninitiated, is an annual event spreading joy and unexpected happiness every Chinese New Year. For a week or so beforehand, the Monkey crew of local glassblowers spend hours creating hundreds of glass ball floats, stamped on the seal with a hand-sculpted design of whatever animal is gracing this year’s calendar (2009-Year of the Ox, as shown above.) The Monkey crew then creep around downtown Tacoma in the wee hours, braving dark and cold to hide the floats, which are then serendipitously and delightfully discovered by Tacomans as they go about their day. What could be more fun – a free glass float which you yourself stumble across? (But hopefully not onto.)
But this year, folks, it’s gonna be different.
From the beginning in 2004 (Year of the Monkey, hence the name) the intent of Monkeyshines was always to be a fun, slightly haphazard treasure hunt. Last year, though, the Monkey crew were stalked by hordes of greedy Tacoma citizens who, hip to the secret, hunted them down to claim floats almost before they had left the trucks.
“It was like we had become the prey,” lamented Ms. Monkey, originator of the event and local glass artist in her own right.
So this year, the Monkey crew are picking a different distribution time. And they’re not going to tell what it is.
I’ll be going along with them and reporting next week, so I’m guarding the secret too. But here’s one clue: The floats will definitely be in their hiding places by dawn of January 26. And where, exactly, do you look?
“We generally hide them in public spaces: parks, phone booths, the waterfront, industrial areas, planters…All of our favorite places,” says Ms. Monkey.
You can also look around town this weekend for the annual New Year Beautiful Angle posters, wheat-pasted up as per tradition by letterpress artists Tom Llewellyn and Lance Kagey. Ripping one off as a souvenir is all part of the art.
And the other nice difference about this year’s Monkeyshines is that the whole enterprise is being assisted by a City of Tacoma Arts Commission grant, which reimburses Ms. Monkey and her primate team of glass blowers, not to mention hot shops Tacoma Glassblowing studio and M-Space, for their dedication to our city’s general artistic fun. Thank you, City of Tacoma.