When Jamie Burnett asked her mother to watch the kids while she was out of town, she never expected to return to a community phenomenon.
After painting rocks with colorful designs, friendly messages and instructions to put out similar rocks, Burnett’s mother, Judith Cuppy, hid them around places like Duck Samford Park in hopes that people would find them and join her Facebook page, Auburn Alabama ROCKS.
People did just that, and when Burnett returned from her trip and took the reins from her mother, she said the Auburn community responded quickly and excitedly.
“The aspect of finding rocks and posting them online is exciting because the person who painted them will comment ‘oh I painted that one’ or ‘oh my friend painted that’ and start conversations with each other,” Burnett said. “Painting is kind of therapeutic, hiding [the rocks] is fun and the community interaction is good. There’s just so many good things about it and I’m glad my mom started it.”
Rocks can now be found all over Auburn, and Burnett hopes people will add more on their own and during events organized on the Facebook page that are held at places like Town Creek Park.
Since Auburn Alabama ROCKS has become so widespread, even the Julie Collins-Smith Art Museum has requested the group come to paint and hide rocks there, Burnett said.
Although not initially excited to take on this art project while also operating a local photography business and raising two boys, Burnett said she kept doing it after realizing its effect on the community. Burnett said that not only did it bring people together in a positive way, it helped get kids outside and off their phones.
“You never know when someone is having a bad day and lot of times you don’t know what they’re going through,” Burnett said. “Many times on the Facebook page there have been people commenting on how they were having a bad day and a rock they found made it a little bit better.”
The positivity doesn’t come without challenges, however. Burnett said the hardest part is spending so much time designing, painting and sealing the rocks before putting them out where anyone could throw out or destroy them.
“Isn’t that kind of the chance we take when we do something kind-- that it may go good or it may go bad,” Burnett said. “I just hope that it made somebody’s day.”