There’s a new public art project taking over downtown Columbus, but you’ll have to look past the big sculptures and displays to find it.
Columbus GA Rocks is a public art initiative started by members of SPARK Art, an art organization launched in January 2016 to spread art and kindness into the community.
The project centers around hiding and finding rocks painted by community members. People paint everything on the stones, from inspirational messages to landscapes to funny faces.
“People have seemed to love it,” said “Smiley” Rachael White, cofounder of the project. “My favorite thing is when little kids find them and they have their little picture and they’re cheesin’ really big because it’s a genuine smile and they’re genuinely happy. We hope to continue to grow and get better.”
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White got the idea from Yvette Scarborough, principal at Fox Elementary School. Scarborough is a native of Lakeland, Fla., where they had a similar rock project.
White works as an assistant manager of Freeze Frame downtown, as well as an after-school art teacher at Fox Elementary. She hid about 50 painted rocks in downtown this past January and has since seen the project grow exponentially.
Once participants paint a rock, they hide it somewhere in town and post a photo with a clue as to where it’s hidden in the Columbus GA Rocks Facebook group. As of Wednesday afternoon, the group had over 700 members.
“That’s another thing that’s fun about it, because everybody has their own style so (rock designs) all are different,” White said. “It’s mainly about community bonding, getting people outside, seeing our community in a different way and spending time with the people they love.”
Popular spots for hiding rocks include downtown along Broadway, Britt David Park, Flat Rock Park and the Lakebottom area. Some have even traveled across the Chattahoochee River to Martin-Idle Hour Park in Phenix City.
White suggested hiding rocks along windowsills or on pieces of art that already exist, like the sculptures on Broadway.
“I like to hide them at the bottom of pieces of art so people find the rock and they see the art as well,” White said.
SPARK is a group of four artists that holds events throughout the year for sharing and creating art. Last year, the group held 47 free events and has more planned for this year with a small charge to pay for supplies.
One of those events coming up is “Art is for Everyone” on April 1 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The event also coincides with the kickoff of ArtBeat 2017 and Market Days.
SPARK will have a station in front of the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts, where they’ll provide supplies for people to come paint their own rocks. They can either keep them or hide them somewhere for others to find, White said.
“Whether they’re hiding rocks or finding rocks or painting rocks, those are all activities you can do with your family,” she said. “There’s no age limit. We’ve got a couple kids that are like 5 year olds that paint some of those and grandparents painting rocks, too.”
How to get started painting rocks
- Find rocks around the community or buy your own from places like Lowe’s, Home Depot and Dollar Tree
- Wash them off to remove any debris and dirt
- Use acrylic paint to paint any design you want
- Wait for the paint to dry and attach or write a message on the rock encouraging people to re-hide the rock and share their find on the Columbus GA Rocks Facebook page
- Seal the rock with a weather-proof sealant before hiding it
- Hide the rock! Downtown Columbus has lots of great hiding spots, as well as multiple parks around the city