Monday mornings are hardly a favorite for most. When THN Editor and Publisher, Dan Moore made his way into the office early Monday morning he had no expectation of becoming the next lucky participant in a “Stash and Dash”.
Hallsville resident but regular local traveler and regular Stash and Dash participant, Heather Steward hid her hilarious, hand made shirt underneath the sign outside the news office. This early morning find transformed a typical manic Monday into a treasure hunt to find out more about this secret society of generous artisans.
ETX Stash and Dash, the Facebook group responsible for placing hundreds of hidden treasures around the East Texas area, is the brainchild of Kilgore resident Tiffany Downing, the idea coming from a similar experience she had while living in Austin. Participants create works of art, seal them in a bag to protect the contents from the weather, including a tag explaining what had been found and how to be a part of the group.
In the midst of one of the world’s most harrowing shared experiences, COVID-19, Downing turned to art as therapy.
“I started the group about a month into quarantine! I didn’t really know how to process everything that was happening so I turned to crafts to ease my mind a bit,” said Downing. “The problem is, I was crafting so many terrariums and pieces of jewelry and canvases that it starting to become a hazard in our home.”
Needing to rid herself of some of her creative clutter, Downing remembered her East Austin experience and headed out into the community with art in hand.
“On Mother’s Day I put out my very first stash in Kilgore at a trail inside of a tree, and a little boy found it! His father contacted me via Facebook and said that it made their family so happy, that his son couldn’t wait to give it to his mother for Mother’s Day and it just caught fire,” she said, reminiscing about the beginnings of her 2,700 member-strong group.
The ETX Stash and Dash Facebook group began with Downing’s overabundance of artwork, a handful of like-minded friends, and a strong urge to bring joy into the lives of those around her. Within a short period, the group had grown to over 200 members and she recruited a crack team of administrators and moderators who effectively keep negativity at bay on the group’s private page.
The popularity of the group and its growth has shown no signs of slowing. Offshoots of the initial group have sprouted up as far as Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Stash and Dash groups now exist for Texarkana, NE Texas, Dallas, Bossier City, Waxahachie, and Wichita Falls.
ETX Stash and Dash will be trading art pieces with the Massachusetts sister-group South Coast Stash and Dash so that searchers in the local area can find artwork from across the country.
“The mission for all of this is to make people smile,” said Downing, explaining the group’s purpose in the world. “It seems like the light in everyone’s eyes just died out when quarantine came, it broke my heart. I just needed to make someone, anyone smile.”
THN’s own t-shirt stasher, Steward concurs with the group’s intent to bring smiles. “I think I search for the found posts more than anything,” she said. “I love to see the excited photos of kids who have found my shirts and my stepson’s artwork.”
The group’s goal has been met many times over. SnD participant, Emily Roll said, “Creating, giving and receiving art has been a lifesaver for me.
Making art is fulfilling and warms the heart of the recipient. This group takes that concept and adds a treasure hunt twist to it.”
She continued, saying, “That’s what’s so priceless about this..it starts a never-ending cycle of “paying it forward” and blesses the giver and receiver. The world is so desperate for positivity, gratitude, and a sense of community right now and I just feel like this group is here to provide us exactly what we need.”
Carthage resident and fellow SnD participant, Amber Loven, agrees with Roll’s sentiment. “It’s just an amazing opportunity for us to be able to get our art out there and get my kids interested in doing art. I haven’t painted in over 15 years, or done any kind of art, and here I am and you know picking it back up and being able to do all of that. It’s just a great opportunity,” said Loven.
To become a part of this group, they can be found at ETX Stash and Dash. Simply, join the group. Once a member, rules and announcements are readily available.
In no time you’ll be creating artwork and planning your own smile-inducing Stash and Dash.