Philly, go out and find your history

The Painted Bride Art Center has created citywide scavenger hunt contest, using Philadelphia’s lesser-known locations of Black, Asian, and queer history.

Run Away with the Bride map (Bri Barton and Meg Lemieur)

Run Away with the Bride map (Bri Barton and Meg Lemieur)

The Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia’s Old City is inviting people to traverse the entire city on a scavenger hunt. Run Away with the Bride involves ten poetic riddles that hold clues to ten sites around the city of historic importance.

In a pandemic pivot, the Bride developed Run Away with the Bride as a game to engage people in cultural programming without asking them to gather. People who solve the riddles, go to the sites, and identify the items hinted at will be eligible for prizes.

The Bride asked Kalela Williams to design the hunt. She refused to drop hints as to where the riddles will take people, but said it’s not for tourists.

“I will tell you where you’re not going to be: you’re not going to be on Independence Mall. You’re not going to be at the Liberty Bell. You’re not going to be at these touristy sites,” said Williams. “You’re going to be in places that you might not think about, or that you might not have known about.”

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Williams bills herself as the Black History Maven. Most of the scavenger hunt sites are related to Black Philly history, and also Asian and queer history.

Run Away with the Bride is a fundraiser for the Painted Bride, which is preparing to leave its longtime home on Vine Street and reorganize itself to present arts in various locations around the city. Participants who sign up on the Painted Bride website receive an elaborately illustrated map of the city designed by artists Bri Barton and Meg Lemieur, known together as Water Ways.

Williams wrote the riddles holding clues to the locations. For example:

His work inspired artists for decades, though he’s often unsung.
Once a Buffalo Soldier, he moved to Philly, far flung
From his Georgia birthplace. But here, he found a niche 
In the printmaking world, creating a new technique: 
Images in stark, dark hues called “carborundum mezzotint,” 
His art reflected themes of Alain Locke’s New Negro Movement.
His former home is being saved by activists and preservationists. 
What’s beneath the window?

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Williams expects people will use internet browsers to figure out the riddle – unlike with crossword puzzles, Google is perfectly fine here – but then she asks for a very specific detail at the location that cannot be seen in online street-view maps.

The point, she said, is to go outside and look.

“It was important to have clues that you had to physically go to. I tried to make sure that you can’t just Google Map this. You have to actually go to see what these clues are,” she said. “I had to actually go to each location as I was creating this, which was really fun.”

Participants who find all 10 items between June 18 – 27 will be entered into a drawing. Prizes are not yet determined, but some sponsors providing the prizes are listed here.

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