By Layla Khoury-Hanold
“It’s a thing,” Allissa Bates enthuses. She’s talking about Augusta Rocks, a 17,000-member strong Facebook group that she founded when she moved here from Tacoma, Washington, where she ran a similar group with over 36,000 members. The premise is simple: paint rocks, coat them with sealant and hide them for others to find. But it is also a movement with a deeper purpose and meaning.
Part of the appeal is that painting rocks is a fun and family-friendly arts and crafts activity. Though Bates has always considered herself an artist (she credits her dad for passing on the art gene), she says that the best part is that you don’t have to be “good” at art to do it. The hand-held rocks serve as mini canvasses (which is arguably less daunting than an actual blank canvas) and kids can let their creativity run free. It is also a project that almost anyone can participate in and one that is relatively inexpensive. It only requires you to purchase rocks, acrylic paint, brushes and sealant, though some people are venturing into mixed media territory by hot gluing things like buttons and baked clay. Then there’s the thrill of hide-and-seek—of hiding and finding the rocks, adding them to your collection or re-hiding them, and then sharing your finds with the Facebook group.
But besides giving kids (and adults) a chance to express their creativity and providing a family bonding opportunity, Bates explains that the “Rocks” movement is about spreading joy. “It could be that you’re having a bad day and you find a rock that’s painted with the word ‘hope’ or ‘breathe’, and it makes your day better,” she says. “And it’s inspiring to know that someone could pick up a rock that you painted and it makes their day.” There are countless feel-good stories shared on the Augusta “Rocks” Facebook page, like the mother who discovered an “It’s a boy” rock on her first walk post C-section, or the veteran who had recently moved to a nursing home and found a rock depicting the Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima memorial—on Memorial Day.
“I want this to be a thing where everyone is out there looking for or painting rocks,” Bates shares. “I hope that it can be something that everyone does and something that we all have in common.”
How You Can Get Involved
Paint, Hide and Seek
• Purchase rocks (white rocks tend to make the paint’s color pop more) from a local landscaping business, like Earth Tech South Inc, then wash them with warm water and let them dry.
• Paint rocks with acrylic paint (or paint pens for detail work) and write Augusta “Rocks” or #AugustaRocks on the back.
• Seal your rocks with a spray sealant to protect your artwork and then hide the rocks. Popular hiding places include the Augusta Riverwalk, parks, gas stations and store parking lots. If you find a rock, keep, re-hide or replace it with your own painted rock.
Join the Facebook Group
It’s not mandatory to join, but it’s a great way to stay up to date on events, like rock swaps, official meet-ups, and charity walks. You can also post photos of your rock masterpieces, share and discover painting tips, and see images and stories of new finds.
The group is currently selling Augusta “Rocks” decals to raise funds for event supplies, like tables and a banner. “We really want to get it out there and get more people involved,” Bates says. “We’d like to do more events, like participate in the downtown market, and do it for free. The movement is free, happiness is free, and we want to keep it that way.” If you’re interested in donating supplies or funds, please contact Allissa Bates via Facebook.
This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Augusta Family Magazine.
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