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At left, ECU graduate student Adam Atkinson and artist Michael Reid Hunter work to fabricate a golden nail in Hunter’s studio in Farmville. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)


Clues, prize created by ECU art and design students

March 16, 2017

By Crystal Baity
ECU News Services

East Carolina University students have been researching the history of Farmville to develop clues for a public treasure hunt as part of the town's annual Dogwood Festival.
The prize will be a 14-karat gold nail made by ECU graduate student Adam Atkinson and Farmville artist Michael Reid Hunter.

Students in Linda Adele Goodine's public art class in the ECU School of Art and Design have been conducting research in the North Carolina collection in Joyner Library and talking with Pitt County citizens to design clues based on the economic, agricultural, architectural and cultural history of Farmville.

"Community-based art brings curiosity, energy and wonder to the participants," said Goodine, the Carol Grotnes Belk Distinguished Professor in art and design.

Atkinson, a first-year ECU graduate student studying metal design, has participated in community art projects before. In Boise, Idaho, he was part of a class that made plant identification plaques for a local elementary school garden. However, it is the first time he has worked with gold.

Molten gold is poured into the mold for the nail being made in Farmville.

"I've had quite a bit of experience making my own metal alloys using silver and copper, but due to the high cost of gold, this will be my first time casting this material," Atkinson said.

Students in Goodine's class researched the town of Farmville to understand its history and significant historical sites. Students also developed clues and illustrated posters that give hints about the nail's location, said Katya Harris, a second-year graduate student.

"The process of preparing for the golden nail project has definitely given me a glimpse into the immense time and planning needed to get a successful community or public art project off the ground," Harris said. "I'm very interested in the function of art in communities specifically as it pertains to place making and contributes to growth and positive change. I've seen some this impact first hand from participating in this class and all of the projects. The whole experience has really made me excited to continue to work in and with communities in the future." 

The golden nail takes shape.

The clues will be placed in businesses and community organizations throughout the town of Farmville. The hunt begins this month and will conclude with the April 28-30 festival.

"The most interesting part of this experience was driving and walking around the town and actually talking to the citizens of Farmville to see what they know about the histories of the various locations we are using in our clues," said Harris, who has participated in mural and sign painting projects in Farmville.

The nail will become the property of the finder, who will be announced during the festival.

Hunter created the first known gold nail hunt in the late 1980s as part of his MFA studies, and did a later one while living in New Orleans. The events were the forerunner of more recent popular activities such as geocaching and Pokemon Go.


ECU students have been researching the history of Farmville for a public treasure hunt for the nail as part of the town’s annual Dogwood Festival.

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