I’m heading downtown, because, well, Pensacola Rocks. Sure, I might head to a show at Vinyl Music Hall later on, but for now, I am keeping my eyes open, because little masterpieces, painted rocks, are being hidden all over town. I’m about to rock this town myself, and I’m not alone; there are now over 30,000 members of this rock
group in our community, an impressive number that’s growing fast. Why? It’s delightfully simple: Paint something on a rock, hide it somewhere around town. You will probably find one if you are looking, giving you a little jolt of joy. You might want to give some back by snapping a picture of your new treasure and posting it to the
Pensacola Rocks Facebook page’s feed if you want to, likely bringing joy to the rock artist that made it. That’s the whole point, as stated on the Pensacola Rocks page: ‘To spread joy’. An elegant explanation for the group’s intent is posted on the group’s Facebook page: “We are painting rocks to ‘hide’ around Pensacola and surrounding areas to spread joy and brighten people’s day. Come join us! This is a community-building group meant to inspire creativity in all ages and energize people to explore the beautiful area we live in.”
The invitation seems to be working in ways obvious, magic, and unforeseen. One posting from a local mom expressed her joy in watching her excited four-year old, who having discovered a painted rock at the head of a local nature trail remained keenly focused on finding more throughout his journey. A local veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder has found joy and relief from the thrill of discovery and the act of creating
something that could brighten someone’s day.
“All I did was press ‘Create Group,’ says Susan Zampachova, who started the Pensacola Rocks Facebook group. It was while visiting her daughter in Vancouver that she discovered that city’s passion for the sensation, and with more than a little nudge from her daughter, Mary Burris (also a member of PR) was inspired to create a rock
group here last December. She was surprised at how swiftly the trend lit up Pensacola, and after some local press coverage earlier this spring, the number of active members began to skyrocket at a breathtaking pace. With so many participants from all walks of life and levels of skill, there are impressive examples turning up, but you don’t have to be a Rembrandt or Picasso to participate. Fine art, inspirational words, simple images, cartoon characters… the range of expression is virtually unlimited, and that creativity paints a diverse and inspiring portrait of Pensacola.
Let’s be honest, we all know that artists can be a little sensitive at times, and managing such vast amount of them is not without some challenges. Therefore, a thoughtful, and ever-evolving, set of ‘rules’ posted on the page encourages responsible participation. There is no attempt to limit individual creativity, however mindfulness and
good manners are expected. It is important to remember that many of the rock hunters are Pensacola’s kids, so it’s reasonable to keep that in mind when making creative choices about what to paint on the rocks and where to hide them. Of course, there are safety concerns, respect for private property, and situational awareness (remember
Pokemon Go last summer?). Valid concerns are watchfully dealt with. Selling or advertising on the page are forbidden, as well as political comments or views. Negative remarks of any kind will get you booted. Sometimes folks need a little help with the rules, or to be reminded of them.
“There are intentionally few strict rules regarding how to paint, hide, or find rocks because we should understand that everyone experiences joy differently. We can only control our own actions,” Burris writes. “Let’s try to use this page, not as a set of rules for a game being played, but a place where we can gather together to share how we are spreading joy through rocks.”
Suddenly people of all ages are gathering together for ‘paint parties’, which naturally lead to getting out and exploring the city to hide, seek and find more rocks. ‘Rock Swaps’, events where rock seekers meet to trade their treasures, are well attended. “It’s about family, it’s about community,” says Susan Zampachova. And really what a is
city, if not a family? Pensacola Rocks encourages the family that is this community to celebrate our diverse and vibrant creativity with a spirit of kindness and unity. Apparently in these hectic times, it’s cool to spread joy. Susan’s 4-year old granddaughter counts out the rocks as they place them around Maritime Park. “That’s how many
smiles we made today,” she says. Pensacola, you rock.