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Rock painting trend spreads to EC area

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Cloey McDonald launched the Facebook page Elizabeth City Rocks to encourage people to paint and hide rocks. The trend is catching hold with rock painting parties like this one during the First Friday Art Walk at Studio 511 Art & Soul.

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By Cindy Beamon
Albemarle Life Editor

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Cloey McDonald began searching for painted rocks after moving to Elizabeth City about a year ago.

The 11-year-old hunted in the usual hiding spots -- neighborhoods, parks, around downtown, and finally on Facebook.

No luck.

In Georgia, where she lived before moving, lots of people were painting and hunting for rocks as the new online craze "Kindness Rocks" began to spread across the nation.

The trend just had not taken hold in Elizabeth City yet, so Cloey's mother Nicole suggested they get the fun started.

Cloey launched a new Facebook page "Elizabeth City Rocks," and mother and daughter began painting. Nicole said the tradition dates back generations. Her mom encouraged her to paint rocks as a child decades earlier.

"Painting rocks is good for the soul," Nicole said in her Facebook post. "It gives you an opportunity to be creative and being artistic has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety. Getting outside in our beautiful area and hiding or finding rocks has a multitude of positive benefits."

At first, Nicole and Cloey noticed people were finding their hidden rocks and posting them online, but no one else seemed to be painting them.

To get more people involved, they invited children in the neighborhood to help them. Together they painted 200 rocks with all types of designs over a weekend.

Hope Malott at Studio 511 Art & Soul in downtown Elizabeth City discovered Cloey's Facebook page and offered to help out.

She covered tables in her studio with newspaper, supplied paint and rocks and invited visitors to stop and paint rocks at First Friday Art Walks in June, July and August.

In a room filled with painters on Aug. 4, Cloey said all her efforts are beginning to pay off. After a slow start, more people are joining the trend. Her Elizabeth City Rocks Facebook page now has over 1,500 followers.

"It feels so good that something so small has grown so big," she said.

One of the painters at Studio 511 on Aug. 4 was Landen Cathcart, 7, and his mother Rachel, who had just discovered the EC Rocks page.

Landen was painting his rock with a definite design in mind -- a Santa moji. Mom and son said they would search for a good hiding spot afterward.

Rachel said she likes that elderly residents in the Virginia Dare apartments next door to Studio 511 know about the rocks and are having fun trying to find them.

"I hear they are really enjoying it," said Rachel.

The two were among 30 people -- children and adults of all ages -- clustered at tables with paint brushes in hand. Camden County art teacher Hope Swinney said she had found painted shells while on vacation at the beach. She and daughter Ruth went to the paint party with a neighborhood friend to get started in joining the trend.

The rocks posted on Elizabeth City Rocks sport a variety of designs, some simple, some elaborate. One rock was yellow except for a few black dots that made it look like a chick. Designs also included a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, an angel, flowers, butterfly, Spider-man, alien, fish, and dinosaurs, among many others.

Finding a rock can brighten a person's day, Cloey said. She wished she would have found one on the day her grandfather died.

Several businesses and organizations are joining the movement.

The Elizabeth City Fire Department has hidden four rocks -- painted with a Dalmatian, fire hydrant, fire truck and angry alarm. Finders are eligible to enter a drawing for small prizes.

Firehouse Subs has a collection of rocks people have found and piled up in one of its windows.

The Museum of the Albemarle is hosting a Back to School ROCKS! party on Tuesday, August 15 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Participants get to paint a rock that represents their school spirit, a quick message of encouragement for the upcoming school year, or favorite college.

Museum Curator Wanda Lassiter said the trend appears to be popular.

"We find them all over the museum every day," she said.

At the Friday Art Walk, a family of six had piled over a dozen rocks into a bucket, painted at Chick-fil-a earlier, with the intent of hiding them downtown.

Cloey said she's happy that more people are painting and finding rocks.

"It's pretty amazing when I see people hiding rocks or somebody comes up to talk to me about it," she said.

Starting up Elizabeth City Rocks has also taught her a lesson, she said.

"You should never give up on your dreams just because something is not working at the beginning," she said.

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