A few weeks ago Daisy de Plume visited us to share her passion for Paris. In that post I mentioned Daisy’s other passion, THATLou, a business she is running during her free time from her regular job and family life – pretty amazing. I wanted to share more about Daisy’s exciting project. I for one cannot wait to try it out and hope to coordinate a future trip around one of her events!
(1) Tell us a little about THATLou. How did you come up with the idea?
My mother was an art historian and as a child I was force-fed painting, sculpture, baroque churches and the like. Every Sunday afternoon we spent at least a few hours at the Met (I grew up in NY).
To keep my interest (and protect her silence – I realize, now that I’m a mother!) she set up various art games, my favourite being the money-making one. I’d earn a penny for every saint I could identify – St Peter (keys), St Catherine (broken wheel), St Lucy (eyes in a dish), etc; 5 cents if I identified a scene like The Flight to Egypt, an Annunciation, and then scribbled down the list of elements that defined the scene.
Sadly the game ended when I won 21 dollars and change one Sunday afternoon at about the age of 12. She said enough is enough, I clearly wasn’t being challenged anymore plus I was driving her to the poorhouse. She moved onto the next Met game.
Having fun with art (or sheer bribery!) is a tool which I guess worked, since I studied art history at university and here I am as an adult building up a business based on getting people to see museums from a fresh perspective. I’m certain that I’ll pass the baton on to Storsh, my toddler, when he’s older, in the hopes of igniting this love of art + history.
Another element was that before I moved to Paris I had been the culture list editor at Vanity Fair magazine, which was a job that gave me a drip of culture all day (and night for that matter, at openings and premieres, etc). When I moved to Paris, though there was certainly a ton of beauty about and enriching history in the buildings I walked past – or lived in, for that matter – culture didn’t play a structured or formalized role in my life the same way. I missed that. So creating something which pulls on my education and background seems like a logical segue.
Lastly and most pertinently to creating THATLou was the funny problem that many expats in Paris have: mixing friends. I’d have friends visit me in Paris from NY and want so badly for my French friends and childhood friends to be as crazy about each other as I was of them. The French can be obtusely unsocial (not anti-social, as they’ll happily chatter to those who they know, unsocial as in not wanting to meet new people). Creating a treasure hunt at my favourite French stomping grounds made them bond, instead of have fun separately across the room at a party at my flat!
(2) How does a THATLou event work?
As treasure hunts go, THATLou is quite simple: Each team, consisting of 2 to 4 people, must photograph themselves in front of as many pieces of treasure within the given amount of time as possible.
The THATLou hint manual has photographs of the treasure which fit into the theme (a menu of themes can be seen here, each treasure hunt is themed), and each treasure has a block of text accompanying it. Sometimes there’s a bonus question granting extra points for silly poses (in the Food + Wine Hunt, for instance, you’re sometimes called on to pose like a drunken Dionysian satyr or dancing Maenad as found in the treasure), other times bonus questions refer to the THATLou blog (so you can make the game as educational as you want to).
The bonus points are buried in the text to encourage two things – 1) the participants to read about the actual work of art and 2) to encourage team-building (one person navigating, another reading the description I’ve written). That said, no one can win on bonus points alone.
After each team has regrouped at the appointed time we toddle over to a nearby café, meet the competition (talking harmless smack about one another, if the group is good), tally our scores and voilá have the prize giving ceremony! The prize is always dinky, leaving the real glory to having won the game. This applies to group events. Slowly a market has arisen which I hadn’t expected, of people playing on their own. Though tourists seem to have enjoyed playing it on their own, I feel like I should build a hunt that caters to them in particular.
Apart from this there are four golden rules (communicated once you’ve inscribed). It’s a wonderful way to meet people, have an overview of what to return to at the Louvre, purge yourself of your competitive energy, pump adrenaline and of course, treat yourself to a fun afternoon tuning into one of Paris’s greatest treasure. The idea is to give someone an overall, focused visit to the museum which so often intimidates by sheer numbers (it’s 65,000 meters sq, the equivalent of walking 8 miles… 2000 people work there, and up to 30,000 people visit it a day! It’s enough to set anyone in the other direction. Hopefully THATLou makes all of those numbers feel insignificant).
(3) How do you prepare your treasure hunts?
Oh it’s loads of fun, really – my favourite part of the whole thing. I think of a theme (I have an endless list of ‘to do’ themes) and then wander the chambers of the Louvre with my husband and Storsh (I dare say my husband knows the Louvre better than I do). Whilst on these research visits I take tons of notes per theme and then put my notebook aside for when I have time to start building it. It always feels a bit like delayed gratification, stashing it away.
Once I have an actual hunt to build I have a ball researching and writing up each of the pieces (a hunt has 15 to 20 pieces of art in it, always more than anyone can find in the given amount of time). Because some pieces have embedded bonus questions in them, referring to longer articles that are published on the THATLou blog, the game can be as educational as the participants want it to be.
The very competitive repeat players sometimes go all-out on doing their THATLou homework, which makes me wildly happy – because oddly enough plenty of those competitive souls don’t have a particular interest in art. I believe that art history, much like classical music, is an acquired taste, the more exposure you’ve had to it the more you enjoy it.
(4) What is the audience for these events? Is it suitable for kids?
Yes, it’s certainly suitable for kids. Have hosted plenty of birthday parties as well as creating THATLous for groups of students visiting Paris on summer programs or terms abroad. For young children each team must have a minimum of 2 adults each – one adult as the herder the other as the navigator.
And though there are themes that are sometimes more interesting to a 10 year old (such as Animals in Art), I generally suggest they do one of the THATLous by Wing, the Richelieu wing for instance. That way they don’t have to walk as much and they get to find treasure more frequently – keeping little ones’ interest. I haven’t yet built a hunt that focuses on one period or specialty (like Egyptian art), but for the kid market plan to.
Other audiences have been companies for corporate fun days (Vista Printing and Piaggio both had fun team-building events, the latter of which I built a custom-made hunt of Wheels and Motion). It’s also a great event for destination weddings, because it breaks the ice for guests of the bride and groom, but also provides them with an overview of one of Paris’s greatest treasures.
On destination weddings often people are only visiting for a socially-crammed few days and would love to see more of the city, but aren’t provided with enough time. A Love + Marriage THATLou is the perfect solution to a wedding planner’s introductory event. Also just small groups for Hen parties has been a success for English ‘bride-to-be’s to come over with their girlfriends before they check off their Parisian debauchery to do.
Recently I’ve had a few individual families or couples play who have preferred to do it independently of the group dynamic, or who haven’t been in Paris for the regular first Sunday of the month public event that I always run. For 2013 I’m looking into how I can offer a more regular, smaller treasure hunt, ideally bi-monthly, to expand that crowd. I have a toddler and a job in the 8th Arrt so it’s been tricky to meet that market. But since THATLou is really my focus, I’m really pleased as punch when anyone plays and enjoys it.
(5) Any thoughts of exporting this experience to other venues?
Yes, yes! Great question, Andi!! Last time I was home I did a THATMet in NY for friends that was really super fun (and made me so sad my childhood friends didn’t all live in Paris). I’d be completely over the moon – totally thrilled if THATLou becomes enough of a success to allow me to build up THATEmpire.
The possibilities are endless, give me a museum and to town I’d fly! Just think of it, there could be a THATPra (Prado in Madrid), THATMet (The Met in NY), THATNat (National Gallery in London, as well as DC), THATVat (would the Vatican like to hire me?)… A THAT at any major museum would send me soaring. If I could continue to learn about art history + history and share what I’m learning with whoever would like to play my game or read my blog, well. Life would be good!
At the moment I still have an office job, but bit by bit there are glimmers of light. I only started the company last spring and already in January 2013 I’ll have designed my first treasure hunt at the Musée d’Orsay for the AFMO group of young patrons.
The big question is, should we call the Treasure Hunt at the Musée d’Orsay “THATSay” or “THATOrs” ??
Does anyone have an opinion or vote?