Art group finds community's soft spot using rocks

A Williamsburg-area group is painting rocks and casting them around town with the goal of sending smiles rippling through the community. Barbara Burris was inspired to lead the effort after seeing the look of joy on her grandson’s face when he found such painted rocks near his family’s home in Oahu, Hawaii.

“He was so excited. I thought that was really cool,” she said. “I think the concept is awesome, to spread joy and happiness. Whatever they’re struggling through, it can really brighten their day.”

Burris returned home and launched the “Williamsburg VA Rocks!” Facebook group with a handful of members back in April; the page has since surged to more than 3,400 members.

The concept revolves around painting a rock with whatever you might like — sunsets, ships, mermaids, holiday tableaux, homages to favorite artists — and hiding them for others to find. Those who find such a treasure might choose to share the discovery on the group page, find another hiding place for it or add their own layer of creativity on top. Stickers underneath such a rock can explain the situation and whatever group is behind it.

Southeastern Virginia has a number of similar groups, such as Hampton Roads Rocks and 757 Rocks alongside options for specific cities such as Newport News and Portsmouth, most of which coordinate through Facebook.

They mirror similar groups across the country and initiatives such as the Kindness Rocks Project. As the rocks travel to different communities, the concept continues to spread like pebbles along a riverbed propelled by eager footsteps.

“It’s amazing,” Burris said. “I can’t believe the artwork. It doesn’t matter what a great artist they are.”

Burris said common local hiding spots include Colonial Williamsburg, Kidsburg and New Town. Members also take them across the country and to other nations, such as Jordan.

She and her group have collaborated with the likes of Artfully Yours Studio, the Community Kindness Project and Williamsburg police to host rock painting events; Burris said she’s working with James City County Police to host a similar endeavor early in 2018.

“It brings a community together, young and old and everyone in between, locals and tourists alike,” said Shannon Page, a Williamsburg artist who runs a small business named Sentiments by Shannon and often works with the rock group. “I really hope this gets people together for something good in a time where there is so much negativity around.”

Page recalled the warm feeling upon finding her first rock, something she’s channeling as she plans to help the group schedule more events in the near future.

Burris also hopes to build on the group’s momentum and bring more people together throughout 2018.

“Anybody can do it. It doesn’t cost much. It’s a win-win-win situation,” Burris said. “I just hope everybody gets a lot of joy out of it. That’s what it’s about, spreading the love.”


For more info on the Williamsburg group, visit

For Hampton Roads Rocks, visit

For 757 Rocks, visit

For nationwide information, visit

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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