By Bill Lauterbach
Many people around Jackson County have reported sightings of beautifully painted rocks, often with encouraging, warmhearted messages or artful pictures decorated on them. Some believe it is only a localized fad exclusive to this county. Other folks have not seen nor heard of this phenomenon at all. One particular individual claims it was her exclusive idea that was born one day on a sandy beach. The truth is, the concept developed over a year ago, growing rather quickly after a series of tragedies.
“Kindness rocks,” “ inspirational stones” or just plain painted rocks are not new and are not a rarity, even if you have yet to find one of the hundreds of thousands spread across the United States. The hobby, for lack of a better description, was brought into prominence thanks to the Smartphone video game known as Pokemon Go. The kindness rocks, inspiration stones or painted rocks were meant to give kids an alternative; something more safe and constructive to do than compete in the often dangerous Smartphone game. Pokemon Go made national headlines on numerous occasions as players were lured to secluded, dangerous places to retrieve items for game points. This sometimes resulted in kidnappings, robberies or assaults. Others were playing the game while driving, ending up in accidents and badly hurt. Even pedestrians were walking into, or off of things and injuring themselves while playing Pokemon Go. Enter “The Rock” (And we don’t mean Dwayne Johnson).
Parents, civic groups, churches, art teachers, schools and a whole host of others started getting together in communities across the nation to unite children, teenagers and adults in a project that was not only fun to search for, but was also enjoyable to display on social media. It was also a way for children, teenagers and young adults to play a social game without the dangers of running into strangers. Some groups have made contesting a part of their rock hunts, with prizes being awarded. Others do it just for the sake of collecting new and unique rocks.
Yes, Jackson County does have its share of “rock groups” that like to “hide and go seek” for rocks. Most rocks are hidden in the many city and county parks throughout the area. Nevertheless, you just might find a stray painted rock while walking down the sidewalk of your neighborhood. You just never know where one of these decorative rocks will pop up.
The hiding and seeking of these painted rocks is not the only fun you can have in this avocation. Many participants have discovered that the biggest satisfaction comes from creating these special little works of art. Sheryl Amburgey, owner of Essa Arts Studio & Gallery in Jackson, has directed workshops for aspiring young painted stone designers. Recently, The Exponent paid a visit to one of her rock painting art sessions.
Sheryl said that her own personal discovery of the artful rock experience actually started fairly recently; “About the first of the year.” She then started to partner with area painted rock groups to help kids, and adults, learn the art of rock painting.
Not any rock will do. First of all, you have to possess a rock that is large enough to paint. Secondly, it should have a fairly smooth surface to make applying the paint a more straightforward process. Sheryl actually gets her paint-ready rock supply from Summit Landscape & Garden; “At very reasonable prices. Plus I like supporting local businesses.”
Attending Essa Arts rock painting session were four year old Aaron Howard and mom, Lee Ann Howard. Planning the rock design is a major part of the project. Lee Ann had placed some painting schemes on her Smartphone and used those to guide her rock design. Aaron was working on his own unique rock masterpieces, as a budding young artist would be inclined to do. Lee Ann was there along with several other Michigan Center moms; for instance Wendy Chitwood. Wendy was -busy painting a patriotic rock – our nation’s stars and stripes. Cherie Samon, also of Michigan Center, was another mom actively painting rocks with her children. Her rock had a special message; “Be More Kind.”
Sheryl had so many participants at this event, her husband put up a canopy tent in the studio’s backyard, which “housed” several more individuals. Sheryl also said that her daughter is active in the rock hobby, having designed a unique “business card” that informs people about the “Jackson County Rocks” group.
Locally, there are three groups dedicated to rock painting, hiding and hunting experience. There is a Jackson County group, a Jackson city group, and one located in Napoleon. We were able to find two with a Facebook presence; Jackson County Rocks – #JacksonCoRocks, and closer to home “Napoleon Rocks” and they can be found at @napoleonrocks on Facebook. Furthermore, the general public is invited to visit these Facebook pages and observe some of the beautiful stones which have been painted, several unique hiding places where rocks have been found, and photos of a number of the more beautiful rocks that have been discovered.
Plus, if you are wondering about future rock painting sessions at Essa Arts, feel free to visit their website; EssaArts.com and simply follow the website index for further information.