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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Grinnell Painted Rock Project seeks to beautify landscaping

This summer, the anonymously-run Grinnell Painted Rock Project began leaving painted rocks around town and campus. Photo by Isabel Torrence.

Students, staff and community members in Grinnell this semester may have noticed a new addition to the landscape. Several painted rocks have appeared all over town and on campus. The rocks started appearing over the summer and are a part of a greater phenomenon known as the Grinnell Painted Rock Project.

The creators of the Grinnell Painted Rock Project encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to participate in the project; it doesn’t require any artistic background or expensive materials to participate. They wish to remain anonymous since they don’t feel any formal structure is needed for the project to succeed.

Grinnell isn’t the first place to witness this artistic phenomenon. The Kindness Rocks Project first swept the country back in 2017. One of the people who started this project in Grinnell cited Oshkosh Rocks, a Facebook page representing Oshkosh, Wisconsin’s chapter of the Kindness Rocks Project, as inspiration for the Grinnell project.

One frequent participant says that painting the rocks can “add joy to [an] otherwise stressful life.” She says that she paints about six rocks a week and has made around 200 since the beginning of the summer. While she has some experience in other “weird” art projects in the community, this is her next big endeavor. She stressed that the catharsis of making art is made more whimsical and enjoyable through the altruism of bringing something good into the community.

Response to the rocks has been extremely positive. Several posts on the project’s Facebook page refer to the rocks as “treasures.” One parent of a Grinnell College student posted that they’d be taking one of the rocks home with them and re-hiding it in their community.

Part of what makes the painted rocks so exciting is the hunt, the good old-fashioned fun of a little secrecy.

“The purpose of the project is to bring joy into random places. It feels weird to me to take credit for it,” said one of the pioneers of the project. She emphasized that the goal isn’t to win glory or admiration, but to bring a smile to a stranger’s face.

So, how do you get involved? All one needs is a rock, acrylic paint, brushes and maybe some Mod Podge for a protective coat. The anonymous creators of the Grinnell Painted Rock Project request that participants paint the Facebook address on the back to let people know what it is. Hide the rock someplace visible, but not obvious, and no place where it could be an obstacle. Those who find a painted rock are encouraged to share it on the official Facebook page or spread it somewhere new for someone else to find.

Above all, the project is meant to remind pedestrians around campus and town of one thing: Grinnell rocks.

This summer, the anonymously-run Grinnell Painted Rock Project began leaving painted rocks around town and campus. Photo by Isabel Torrence.
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