HANNIBAL | Hannibal artist Lisa Marie Richardson has made a tradition of hiding small, hand-painted pumpkins before Halloween for children to discover — she painted 200 last year, and she is getting an early start to paint many more for a pumpkin hunt in mid-October.
Richardson has 68 pumpkins and 14 skulls so far, and she received a donation to buy more of the small pumpkins ideal for painting and hiding. Richardson began applying her creative skills with her paintbrush Thursday evening, with favorites emerging like each character from the Nightmare Before Christmas, superheroes and mermaids. This year marks the fourth hunt — beginning when Richardson purchased 20 pumpkins, painted them and hid them. She decided to expand the efforts for the following year, with 75 pumpkins, then 200 pumpkins for Hannibal’s bicentennial in 2019. This year, she’s getting a jump on the Halloween season to make the hunt bigger than ever, particularly with many events being canceled or postponed due to safety concerns surrounding COVID-19.
“The more it grew, I was like, well why not more?” Richardson said. “I always try to set myself up for success because I plan it, and I won’t let myself down, because I’ll let other people down. I’m ahead of the game now, because I’m starting in August.”
Richardson said she’ll have some down time following foot surgery later this month, and she plans to make full use of it, creating more and more pumpkins to line the reorganized shelves she painted in vibrant colors for her studio and the adjacent hallway — she fashioned one from an old chicken coop, and she found others along the side of the road.
During last year’s hunt, children who found the bicentennial pumpkins received a free hand-painted Christmas ornament from her. For 2020, children who find the red, white and blue pumpkins with stars and stripes will receive a free Christmas ornament. The characters and scenes are always evolving, including animals like her favorite, pigs.
“I do a little bit of everything,” Richardson said. “I always have more ideas than I have things.”
Recently, Richardson added two community libraries made from recycled materials — a library for adults is in the front, and a library at children’s height is in the back, with crafts to paint along with books. She looks forward to the chance to share joy with children through the painted pumpkins, and she will share updates on the project through her personal Facebook page and the Things Happening in Hannibal page.
As the hunt draws nearer, Richardson will announce prizes for different pumpkins, noting the fun of finding the pumpkins makes hunting a fun Halloween activity for children. In the meantime, she’s been placing painted rocks in places like the base of the children’s library — she recently found some new painted rocks on her porch with a note reading “These are just for you.”
Heartfelt connections and creating artwork like the pumpkins that bring joy are among the things that Richardson said “keeps me going to keep doing it.”
“Someday, I may not be able to. But for now, I’m going to do as much as I can — change as many people’s heart’s as I can,” Richardson said. “You put out what you get. You put out kindness, you get kindness.”