Crockett Middle School art teacher Lora Durr never expected to create a phenomenon when she decided to hide painted rocks all around the township.
But what started as a game with a colleague’s family has turned into all the rage in Hamilton Township. In its first month, the Hamilton Rocks! Facebook page gained nearly 6,000 followers, and continues to grow. Community members are hiding rocks in Veterans and Kuser parks, Sayen Gardens, sections of Mercer County Park, in front of the Hamilton post offices and lots of other places in the township. On the rocks, residents have painted cartoon characters, sports team logos, fancy designs and sly jokes.
“The goal behind this simple, creative project, which I learned about this past summer at the School for Art Leaders that I attended, is to spread creativity throughout the community,” Durr said. “I was inspired by projects done in Jefferson City and Memphis, where the pace is much slower, but have never been done on the East Coast, because of the larger population and fast paced lifestyles. I thought to myself it would be so hard to reach everyone because of the massiveness of the township. But this has restored my belief in the awesome people in this township.”
The game works like this: Get some rocks, either at a lawn and garden store, a park, or even your own yard. Paint them with colorful images that exemplify happiness. Flowers, pets, pizza, ice cream, polka dots, inspirational words—anything that’s family friendly and warms the heart—may be painted on the rock. Then hide the rocks anywhere in the township for others to find. If you find a painted rock, you may keep it, or hide it.
Durr, who lives on a farm, and walks up and down her property with a bucket, collecting rocks for the project. She said she wants to encourage people to become a part of something that is completely positive.
“After I hid the first four rocks, at the end of August, in front of the Hamilton Township Library, I asked my friend and colleague, Jenna Kroslin to take her two kids there, and see if they can find the rocks,” Durr said. “When Jenna said that both of her kids, Jahna and Oliver, were so excited to find them, I knew we were on to something here.”
Kroslin’s children, who love being outside and love art, said that finding the rocks made them happy, and that they thought it was cool. Since then, people ages 2 to 97 have become involved in the project. Groups like the Girl Scouts have participated, and many families are sitting together after dinner, painting rocks and talking to each other. Durr said this was especially a motivation of hers—to give people something to do aside from being on their cell phones, computers or other technological device.
Crockett Middle School special education teacher Kara Croly said she finds painting the rocks very relaxing.
“I love that this is bringing joy to the people who are finding the rocks,” Croly said. “When we go out to hide them, we get to look for other rocks and see other people who are out rock hunting. It’s also given me a chance to meet other people in Hamilton who I didn’t know.”
Durr, who has a reputation around the schools for being deeply involved with organizations for art educators, plans to do more with this project, organizing painting activities at nursing homes and planning a rock painting party night at Crockett.
“Our principal, Roger Bigos, has been so supportive,” Durr said. “When I go to him with an idea that is going to help the students and the community, and one that doesn’t cost money, he says go for it. Many of the art teachers in schools, other faculty and my students have been so supportive. In the beginning, I thought I would be laughed at and everyone would be asking me, ‘What are you up to now?’”
The project is also inspiring other local communities like Robbinsville, East Brunswick and Burlington. Durr has also received request for information from Virginia, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Illinois, Texas and even Australia. Dawn Muziani, a secretary at Crockett, has even reached out in an attempt to get the initative airtime on comedian Ellen Degeneres’ talk show.
“Ms. Durr’s little idea of painting rocks is bringing tremendous joy to the community,” Muziani said. “Ms. Durr has been inspiring Crockett students with her creativity and now creates an even bigger smile.”
Cheryl Bergen, a friend of Durr’s, is overjoyed about how much everyone is coming together and sending out positivity and creativity for the kids in the community.
“It’s so good to see that there is still good out there,” Bergen said. “It’s great seeing strangers come together, giving kids something to do that gets them outside.”
Sometimes, the small things in life really can rock someone’s world.