Lichens, art and a puzzle 

untitled-(5-of-8)A symbiotic mixture of algae or cyanobacteria that live among filaments of fungus: Once you know what to look for, lichens are all over.

They grow on almost anything in almost every climate, and now a dozen colonies are hiding in Kansas City art.

Six of them are at the Anita B. Gorman Discovery & Conservation Center on Troost Avenue, where artist Sarah Hearn on Tuesday explained her art.

Some pictures on walls depict her artistic renderings of lichens, but six exact reproductions of different lichen colonies are hidden.

She calls the project Urban Colonization and it is a mixture of art, a biology lesson and a puzzle.

Load an app at and you can search for a dozen hidden colonies.

Some are also at Union Station, Mid-America Arts Alliance and Plug Projects.

The app gives a colony silhouette and a clue to where it is. When you find it, enter a key code that is with it.

The first 100 people to find all 12 colonies get a special, numbered artist photograph.

Her past projects have looked at things like cloud formations and weather, she said. “All of my work explores the relationship between science and science fiction.”

And she likes to have people involved. At the start of the lichen project, she asked people to mail her lichens, kept track of those who did and had an expert identify the lichens.

The symbiotic cooperation also seems to fit the biology of lichens, which experts estimate cover 6 percent of the earth’s surface.

“Lichens are kind of invisible to us but they’re all around us,” Hearn said. “My hope is to get people paying more attention to the natural environment.”

The program and exhibit will continue until mid-September. Hearn also has an exhibit of lichen art at the Paragraph Gallery, 23 E. 12th St.

See more of Hearn’s work at

One Comment

  1. Diane Capps says:

    Isn’t there supposed to be a class on lichens Sat. Sept. 5th from 11:00 to 2:00 at the Discovery Center? I’m planning on attending.

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