Tile’s travels from Florida inspires young artist

Tile’s travels from Florida inspires young artist

Posted: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 9:08 pm
By: AP

CLARKSVILLE (AP) — Finding an artifact from a previous civilization outside one of the oldest structures in this area would have been less surprising. What 8-year-old Samantha Smith found outside her church after a day at Vacation Bible School was an artifact of the Internet age, a monument of new expressions of creativity. Under the sign for Patriot Park outside Bethel United Methodist Church, Samantha, who goes by the nickname Sami, saw what looked like the brightly colored edge of a poster or greeting card. “I saw something sticking out. I thought it was a piece of paper, but it wasn’t. It was this,” Sami says, holding up a large floor tile. On the tile is painted a dapper-looking cat with a ring of bells around its neck, standing tall and staring ahead boldly. “Fred Feels Feisty” is painted in block letters up one side. “We thought it might belong to someone in the church, then we turned it over,” says Sami’s mother, Vanessa Moeller, 29. At the bottom right is the first clue where this piece of found art originated — the initials MTM. Turn the tile over and the back side gives still more clues about Fred’s origin. First there is a description of Fred’s interests, then a bit of information about where he came from: “Fred is not religious, but he thinks that fish-on-Fridays thing is a great idea. He knew someone in the neighborhood would be cooking seafood tonight. The mere scent made him feisty. Fred loved Fridays and — bells or no bells — he was headed out for a night on the town. If you hear bells, it just might be Fred. “This tile was randomly placed here for the sole purpose of being found. www.tilefortlauderdale.blogspot.com” All of that is in the same red block script, but underneath is another note, added in black, in different handwriting: “I’m now a hitchhiker. Relocate me!” Sami and her mom went home and looked up the Web site. There, the Moellers found Fred’s journey to the spot where Sami found him in Patriot Park near Fort Campbell had begun nearly 1,000 miles away in a another fort — Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “It was really like finding buried treasure,” Moeller says, “because you never expect to find something like that.” ——— The artist who signs her paintings “Mary Tiler More,” but remains anonymous, says she paints personality-filled tiles and hides them around Fort Lauderdale “because it’s fun.” Normally, she hides a painted tile in a specific place, reveals the location at www.tilefortlauderdale.blogspot.com, and within hours, one of her readers has hunted the tile down and found it. “She writes about them, she hides them, then people go scurry to find them,” Moeller says. The finder becomes the new owner of the tile, and that’s where the tile’s journey ends. But Fred’s story is a little more complex, because the person who found him decided to get in on the fun and hide the tile for another person to find. First, the artist writes, she dropped Fred in a newspaper box at a Fort Lauderdale area shopping center “so he can scope out the restaurant ads and see where he’d like to dine tonight. Maybe he’d start with some smoked fish dip. Fred will surely have fun, as he has a way of getting what he wants.” The next person who posts is “Rucci,” who found Fred in the newspaper box and took him on several field trips — to the Fort Lauderdale Firefighters Benevolent Lounge, to Fort Lauderdale Fire Department where he had his picture taken on a fire engine ladder truck, then to the gym where he was photographed on workout equipment. According to the Web site reads: “Next he flew in the belly of a 737 to Fort Campbell (home of the 101st Airborne Paratroopers-Screaming Eagles) where he got his pic taken on a tank. He was marked as a ’Hitch-Hiker’ and placed with the names of some heroes at ’Patriot Park’ on Ft. Campbell Pkwy under the sign close to the oldest structure in town.” Rucci reports recording Fred’s coordinates on his GPS with the goal of turning him into a “Geo-Cache,” adding, “Fred’s adventure is just beginning, I’m sure. I will send you all the pics if you like. Gobs of fun meeting him.” Geocaching is an adventure game in which people hide small treasures in accessible places, then list the coordinates of the “cache” online for others to seek out and find using GPS devices like those used in vehicles to get driving directions. But Fred didn’t have to wait for a geocacher to find him, because Sami Smith’s eagle eye spotted him. Moeller, whose husband, Ryan, is deployed to Iraq, took pictures of Sami holding Fred in front of the Patriots Park sign and sent them to Mary Tiler More. The artist then posted the photographs online. The artist refused a telephone interview with The Leaf-Chronicle and insisted upon anonymity, but offered to answer questions via e-mail. “Yes, it was pretty exciting to learn that one of my tiles made it all the way there,” Mary Tiler More’s e-mail says. “If one was going to make it that far, I should have known it would be Feisty Fred.” ——— Sami is so excited about Fred that, although she intends to keep him and not hide him in another spot, she is thinking about painting tiles of her own and hiding them for others to find. The found art has provided a new charge for Sami’s own artistic nature. “She’s been drawing since she could hold a crayon. When she was a little girl she drew on walls, the refrigerator, everything. She puts a lot of detail into what she does,” Moeller says about her daughter. “My husband used to tease that as much crayons and markers as we bought, we should have stock in Crayola.” Sami, who recently finished second grade at Barkers Mill Elementary School, is already making sketches for characters to paint on tiles. “Games are fun, but when you draw, you actually show how you feel,” Sami says. She turns the Fred Feels Feisty tile over in her hands, inspired by the work of another artist, far away. “I like how she paints on this. I like the texture,” Sami says. “When I take art classes, I want to learn how she does it. Drawing is my hobby that I will always cherish.” Published in The Messenger 7.30.08

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