They’re precariously speckled across town, representing hallmarks of kindness with the intention of unexpectedly brightening someone’s day. Small rocks – some ornamented with colorful pictures and others with inspiring messages – have been serving a larger purpose in the town of Enfield.
Shannon Grant, who established the “Enfield Rocks” group this past February, has a passion for painted stones. An online group inspired her kindness project in Lakeland, Florida, a community-unifying page of people painting and hiding rocks in their town.
“I was looking for something positive to bring to Enfield, and this was perfect,” says Shannon. “I wasn’t sure if people would want to participate, but knew it was something I had to do.”
With little expectation, Shannon extended an invitation on the Enfield CT Open Forum – a public group on Facebook – for a paint party at Molina’s Café and then later at the library. Afterward, the movement exploded, generating a group of enthusiastic “rockers.” Through the “Enfield Rocks” Facebook page, Shannon received hundreds of requests from residents, all wanting to participate in the hide-and-seek community art project.
The concept is simple: paint, hide and find. Using basic supplies – rocks, paint, brushes and clear sealer – participants decorate and share photos of their rocks before “hiding” them around town. Often in plain sight, the shared photos act as clues for potential rock “hunters.” When a rock is discovered, participants are encouraged to reciprocate, taking and sharing the same rocks to the group’s Facebook page. Found rocks can be replaced with a newly designed rock by the seeker, re-hid or kept. While online participation is encouraged and alerts the artist that their creation has been located, it is not required. Shannon says the sole purpose is to spread unrestricted happiness, recognizing someone may find a rock who is not on social media or is just grappling with something and simply needs a smile without obligation.
“The premise is to spread joy, it’s as simple as that,” Shannon explains. “People get joy from painting the rocks, joy from hiding the rocks and there’s joy in finding the rocks. The people who post that they found rocks, the artist then receives joy knowing someone appreciates their painting.”
The community of “rockers” in Enfield is booming. Favorite hiding locations include the library, town parks, outside local businesses, and heavily trafficked public spaces. Over the past few months, these areas have become awash with vibrant color and tokens of happiness. Designs vary by artist – from intricate mandalas, landscapes and cartoon characters to impressionistic creations from a youthful artist – but each shares the same intention of spreading cheer.
“Although we spread happiness, there are a lot of other things that happen on account of that joy,” explains Shannon. “People are meeting new people, getting together to form an art community and hunting takes families out in natural spaces to exercise. I love that people are outside in the summertime, exploring and finding new places; this is a fun way to do it.”
The rock phenomenon – that’s traveling the planet – brings people together. Like a re-envisioned chain letter, the movement is intended to spread random unconditional acts of kindness. In Enfield alone, the inclusive, multi-generational activity includes nearly 3,000 group members and Shannon estimates over 5,000 rocks have been placed throughout town. The inspiration has spread to bordering towns as well, with separate rock groups turning up in Longmeadow, East Longmeadow, East Windsor, Suffield and Somers.
“I’m so happy to see people out exploring and seeing the amount of talent in this town has amazed me,” says Shannon. “It’s passion, and of all the things I’ve done in town, this is the one I’m most proud of, and I’m not even really doing it! I began and managed the [online] group, but it’s a community of people doing this - and that’s how good things start.”
Want to rock? Visit “Enfield Rocks” on Facebook for tips to get started, guidelines for involvement (like where not to hide) or creative inspiration. You can also visit Shannon at the “Enfield Rocks” booth on Family Day – a town wide celebration hosted by the Enfield Foundation for Excellence in Education – September 17 on the Enfield Town Green (820 Enfield Street).