ANN ARBOR – When glass artist Shawn Bungo and his wife moved to Tree Town from Knoxville, Tennessee six months ago, they knew moving to a new city during a pandemic would be a challenge.
No stranger to community collaboration, Bungo decided to engage with locals through virtual scavenger hunts for small glass works he would hide across town -- and they were an overnight hit. He originally started the tradition while going on walks with his dog, Leo, in Knoxville.
“Being a glass artist, you have a lot of pieces that don’t come out, so that’s what started that,” said Bungo. “When I moved up here, after the pandemic started, I started doing that again where I would just go around and randomly hide things and put my card with them -- typically in downtown Ann Arbor. I really connected with the community with that.”
Nowadays, his items are claimed within hours of his posts -- and in some cases the people who find them share a photo of them collecting his works.
On his many walks, Bungo became fascinated with the city’s numerous Little Free Libraries. He shifted his scavenger hunts to showcase the various library boxes around town -- which inspired him to relaunch a project he created in Knoxville.
Bungo constructed a Take Art Leave Art box and gallery outside his home on Ann Arbor’s south side. The concept is a free art exchange between community members.
“I just recently put it back up two weeks ago and I shared it with the Ann Arbor Townies group on Facebook,” said Bungo. “As soon as I did that, I almost immediately got people involved in it and it’s been really fun.”
He said he’s received about a dozen miniature paintings and other small items in the 12x12-inch box, some with handwritten notes.
“Over the years, I’ve gotten poems, photographs -- I’m open to everything,” said Bungo.
He said it has served as a fun way to engage with other Ann Arborites during the pandemic.
“With people being so isolated right now, I think it’s the perfect time to do something like this, “ he said. “It allows me to connect with people because we haven’t been able to.”
Bungo was supposed to show at the Ann Arbor Art Fair last summer, and with the event being canceled, he felt like he missed out on a true introduction both to Ann Arbor’s art scene and its residents.
For now, keep an eye out for his latest adventures with Leo and his front yard gallery. You might just find a tiny treasure -- if you look close enough.