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Rochester Facebook group encourages painting and hiding — and finding and sharing — of tiny art

“After learning about the Albert Lea Rocks Facebook group from our friend Renee Lee, we searched for one in our town,” says Jupiter Hoffman. “There wasn’t one, so I started this group.”

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One of the patriotic rocks hidden in Rochester by Kristy Flanaghan this past Fourth of July.
Contributed / John Sievers
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Sometimes you’re between a rock and an art place. That’s where Jupiter Hoffman found herself in 2016 when she started the Rochester Rocks-Minnesota Facebook group. Inspired by a family friend from Albert Lea, she and her children started painting small rocks to look like lizards or M&Ms and then hiding them around Rochester for others to find.

“After learning about the Albert Lea Rocks Facebook group from our friend Renee Lee, we searched for one in our town,” says Hoffman. “There wasn’t one, so I started this group.”

The group, which currently has 293 members, encourages members to paint rocks with inspirational sayings or art and hide them in public for others to find. Then, since painted rocks are marked with a Rochester Rocks Facebook tag on the back, those who find them can post their new-found treasures online.

“I like hiding painted rocks because it’s a good way to get people outside, and connected in a positive way,” says Hoffman.

She works at Ability Building Communities in the Recreation and Leisure program and says she sometimes has her clients paint rocks.

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Hoffman likes to paint mandalas on rocks. She says it’s a fun activity to do with her kids: “We collect rocks almost anywhere we go and paint them on rainy, cold days.”

Though some might be familiar with the nationally recognized Kindness Rocks Project created by Megan Murphy around the Cape Cod, Massachusetts, area in 2015, Hoffman says she was unaware of it when she started the Rochester Rocks group.

“We definitely have the same goal as the Kindness Rocks Project,” she says. “I hadn’t heard about it until after I started this group when someone asked if we were involved.”

Eventually, Hoffman handed over administration responsibilities of the Rochester Rocks Facebook group to Katie Sikkink.

One Rochester resident who found her way to the Rochester Rocks group is local artist Enid Weichselbaum. She describes herself as primarily a textile artist but loves painting rocks.

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Santa rocks painted by artist Enid Weichselbaum.
Contributed / John Sievers

“I started painting rocks as I love working with small, shareable art,” she says. “A very smooth rock is fun to paint, particularly with finer details. I do other things with rock, wrapping them in fibers or felting wool roving over them. I also wrap interesting designs with caning strands.”

Sometimes Weichselbaum picks up a rock that resembles a car or van and paints it as such.

“I love to find heart-shaped rocks, or triangular rocks on which I paint hearts. Often a larger rock becomes a landscape scene,” Weichselbaum says.

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Weichselbaum has left rocks for people to find all over the country and even internationally. “I have left rocks in lots of places including the D.C. area, London, Chicago, airports and train stations,” she says. “I once left one in the parking ramp at (Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport). Within a few hours, I found a post that the rock had been picked up and taken to Florida with a picture as proof.”

Having seen painted rock groups in other communities, Weichselbaum found the Rochester Rocks Facebook group online.

“Public art doesn't need to be limited to decorating public utilities or public places,” says Weichselbaum. “It can be small, shareable and produced by anyone. The secret satisfaction of having given something to the next lucky person to find it and the delight of finding a little gift should not be underestimated.”

Sharing a love of art with children is particularly important to Weichselbaum. When she sells her art at shows, she often has a tray of small painted items that children can have for free that she hopes encourages them to continue to seek out art in the world.

Kristy Flanaghan, a fourth-grade teacher for the Rochester Public Schools Online Elementary, first got involved with painting rocks when she found one in northern Wisconsin while visiting her sister and found that town’s rock-painting Facebook group.

“I checked to see if Rochester had one, and they did,” she says.

“I was considering having my class make rocks with inspirational sayings, but then the pandemic happened,” says Flanaghan. “When everything was so topsy-turvy in the world, I thought that people finding rocks with positive messages, jokes, or just a picture, might make a few people smile.”

Earlier this year, around the Fourth of July, Flanaghan talked her daughter and her boyfriend into hiding about 80 patriotically painted rocks around Rochester. “We had a blast doing it,” she says.

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A common sentiment in the Rochester Rocks Facebook group is that the process of painting and hiding rocks helps make the community a more positive place. “If one rock can make one person smile,” says Flanaghan, “then the work was well worth it. I think we all need more happiness in our lives, and this is a small part I can take to help.”

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The Rochester Rocks-Minnesota Facebook page profile photo.
Contributed / John Sievers
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A close up of one of artist Enid Weichselbaum's painted rocks.
Contributed / John Sievers

Related Topics: ROCHESTERART
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