Artist Meg Kahnle Uses Scavenger Hunts to Create Boise-Inspired Art 

click to enlarge Artist Meg Kahnle poses with one of her paintings which, like those for Connect with Boise, uses a photo collage as a background.

Eric Knape

Artist Meg Kahnle poses with one of her paintings which, like those for Connect with Boise, uses a photo collage as a background.

Active social media users in Boise may have already contributed to one of local artist Meg Kahnle's projects without realizing it. Kahnle uses Instagram as both a source and platform for her interactive art endeavors, and this month, she plans to combine what she has learned from past efforts into a citywide, community-oriented scavenger hunt that will end up as a series of paintings featuring 20 iconic Boise landmarks.

The new project, called Connect With Boise (a play on Kahnle's website name, Connect With Meg) has roots in her 2016 This is YOUR Boise adventure, when she used community Instagram photos tagged with the #thisisboise hashtag as a backdrop for a series of multimedia paintings. "This Is Boise Beer," for example, featured an overflowing glass of amber suds sculpted in acrylic gel over a grid of photos of local brews.

It's also a nod to her 2017 project, Connect with Yoga, when she asked people to post photos of themselves practicing yoga on instagram using the #connectwithyoga hashtag. Those photos became base collages for brightly colored paintings of men and women in yoga poses, which she displayed at Yogafort, a branch of Treefort Music Fest, this March.

Connect With Boise will borrow from both of those projects, and she'll spice it up with a scavenger hunt. On May 7, Kahnle posted an artistic "map" of Boise on her website and social media accounts that guides users with hints to five local landmarks. Once there, participants are asked use their smartphones to take photos of each spot, which they can then upload to Instagram using the #connectwithboise hashtag for Kahnle to incorporate into her art.

"The idea behind it is to integrate the history of Boise—like the old photos, old newspaper articles, things like that—with more contemporary photos of people, lnstagram shots, anything that people would just casually take, because I think it's fun to see that juxtaposition of images," Kahnle said.

click to enlarge Historic photographs and newspaper articles make up the base layer for this Meg Kahnle painting of the Idanha Hotel, a prototype for the Connect with Boise series. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Historic photographs and newspaper articles make up the base layer for this Meg Kahnle painting of the Idanha Hotel, a prototype for the Connect with Boise series.

The project has been in the works for almost four years, but didn't really take off until last May, when Kahnle won a grant from the Alexa Rose Foundation that she said gave her the "breathing room" to perfect the idea. For the last year, she has partnered with the Idaho State Archive to check historical facts and source old photos and newspaper clippings related to local landmarks. This interest in history, as well as a lifelong fascination with the concept of place, sparked Connect With Boise.

"I moved around a lot even when I was younger, so I've always been really interested in that idea of sense of place because I think they're fascinating, and I kind of see cities and places almost like people," Kahnle said. "They have their own pulse, they have their own energy. You can really personify a city. So I've really enjoyed getting to know Boise, and part of what makes me feel like I know a place is dialing into its history and creating things around the city and learning more about it."

The first scavenger hunt begins at the Idaho State Capitol before guiding participants to walk or bike to four other spots around the city. Boiseans have until Sunday, June 17, to carve out a few hours of time, take the challenge and add their photos. Then, Kahnle will spend the next month or so making five art pieces with the results, painting each landmark over collages of resulting photos and covering the whole thing with a shiny layer of resin. She plans to repeat the process three more times over the course of the year for a total of four hunts and 20 art pieces, each featuring a different landmark.

"I kind of want to see what happens organically, and get some feedback on it," Kahnle said of the first hunt, a few weeks before it went up online. "So I'm going to launch this one in May and collect images and things like that. And the other side of it is, if [participants] submit five images to the scavenger hunt, then they have a chance to win one of the original paintings [valued at $200] that their pieces are in."

Kahnle hopes the project will inspire people to get outside and check out the city they call home. When she isn't painting or working at her day job as a lead graphic designer for Bodybuilding.com, Kahnle leaves it all on the table when it comes to exploration—she has an A license for skydiving, regularly straps on climbing gear to scale mountains and is a dedicated yogi when both her feet are on the ground.

"[I want] to encourage people to actually walk or bike around and do something active, and explore the city in a way that might not have otherwise," Kahnle said.

Those interested in participating can find the map and clues for the first hunt by visiting connectwithmeg.com or @connectwithmeg on Instagram.

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