Quills & Queues by Vickie Aldous: The Ashland Gallery Association's fifth annual Art Treasure Hunt kicks off tonight.

The Ashland Gallery Association's fifth annual Art Treasure Hunt kicks off tonight.

If you've never tried it before, the free treasure hunt is a fun way to see art at local galleries during February — and get in some great exercise to boot.

Here's how it works. You start by picking up the February gallery guide at the Ashland Chamber of Commerce downtown or at any one of the many galleries that are members of the Ashland Gallery Association.

This year, 14 galleries are participating in the treasure hunt. Those galleries will be marked by a small "T" icon on this month's gallery guide.

On the map you'll find small detail photos taken of art in the galleries. For example, last year's map showed red and white stripes off a piece of artwork at Bohemia Gallery & Framing at 552 A St. If you scrutinized the artwork on display at Bohemia, you would have found the stripes on a piece of art there.

Once you think you've spotted the correct art to match a photo, write down the title of the piece and the artist in the space provided on your treasure map. Have the person who is working at the gallery validate your find before continuing on to your next stop.

Suzanne Heinrich, administrator for the nonprofit gallery association, said people really get into the spirit of the hunt.

"It's fun," she said. "People will be looking around and then they say, 'I found it! I found it!'"

Everyone who finds the art at the 14 galleries and turns in a completed treasure map at Bohemia Gallery by Feb. 28 gets to pick out a free A Taste of Ashland poster. The posters — which celebrate the gallery association's annual food, wine and gallery tour — feature a different piece of artwork each year.

The completed treasure maps will be entered into a drawing, with the first prize being a $100 gift certificate that can be used at any of the participating galleries. Second prize is two tickets to A Taste of Ashland, which takes place April 23-25 this year.

Bohemia Gallery, Ashland Artworks and Liquid Assets Wine Bar are offering mystery bonus prizes as well.

The fact that the treasure hunt lasts through the end of February means that you won't have to rush to finish the hunt during tonight's First Friday Art Walk, when galleries stay open into the evening hours. Each treasure map provides the address and hours of the participating galleries, making it easy to drop by at a time that fits your schedule.

Heinrich said the idea for the treasure hunt originally came from artist Ann DiSalvo, an association member.

"It gets people coming into the galleries and gets them really looking at the art," Heinrich said.

Scheduled in February, the treasure hunt also boosts visitation to galleries during a traditionally slow time of the year, she said.

More than 100 people completed their treasure maps last year, Heinrich said.

For more information about the Ashland Gallery Association, visit www.ashlandgalleries.com.

For information about this year's A Taste of Ashland food, wine and art tour, visit www.atasteofashland.com. Tickets range from $10 for the Friday night gala — to be held this year at the new Ashland Art Center downtown — to $40 for the Saturday tour and $30 for the Sunday tour.

Tidings staff writer Vickie Aldous and freelance writer Angela Howe-Decker alternate as author of the weekly column Quills & Queues.