An artist along the lakeshore is giving people a new reason to leave their homes for fresh air—creating and hiding dozens of small ceramic gnome statues along the trails at Duncan Woods Park.
Maggie Bandstra and her dog Nelson have been hiding one gnome each day since the end of November.
Bandstra is in the process of working on her master's degree in fine art and painting at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia, doing her work from her family's home in Grand Haven.
She was finishing up her thesis a few months ago when she says she "needed to get up and go for a walk... and I had these little gnomes, and I thought maybe it'll be fun to play a game with people."
And so she made a post in the Grand Haven Informed Facebook group, explaining her idea and giving people a clue about where she had hidden the first gnome.
“I thought maybe there wouldn’t be people looking," Bandstra told FOX 17 on Friday.
But that was definitely not the case. People quickly jumped on board for the hunt.
“I found it, and I didn't know what it was," said Rhonda Stephenson, who found one of the gnomes several months ago.
"I posted to Grand Haven Rocks [Facebook group], and I said, 'What is this? What do I do with it?'”
Stephenson, and many others, have made a habit of coming out to look for the hidden gnomes after Bandstra posts her daily clue.
“You look for them, and then you meet everybody else. We're all in the same area, thinking that it's this tree, whereas it could be way on the other side of Duncan woods,” Stephenson said.
“Everybody's out here within minutes of her posting. You've got 10 cars out here looking.”
Starting as just a way to make going out for a walk more enjoyable, the project has brought together a wide network of people who are now sharing their finds with Bandstra and each other online.
“It's been quite an adventure, and I've met lots of new people through this, and it's just really been a fun way to be social and interacting with people without being close to anyone,” Bandstra said.
She documents the whole process in an online journal and on her Instagram page, planning to hide 365 of the miniature statues before she stops.
“I just thought about taking one action every day… like, what happens when you take this one simple act of sharing a little luck every day.”
This story was first published by Michael Martin at WXMI in Grand Rapids, Michigan.