A few weeks ago, a patron walked into the Centre County Library and asked if they could hide a rock there.
Intrigued, Laura Sarge, the children’s librarian, started researching and eventually came across the Facebook page for Happy Valley Rocks, an online gathering place for people who like to paint, hide and then post pictures of the colorful stones they find tucked away in places such as Talleyrand Park or The Arboretum at Penn State.
All of which begs the question: Why?
Heather Shadow first caught wind of the concept — part art project, part scavenger hunt— from a friend in New Jersey and was tickled.
“It’s just a way to spread kindness through your community and get people outside,” Shadow said.
It’s just a way to spread kindness through your community and get people outside.
Today, she sits at the forefront of Centre County’s rocks — which is more comfortable than it sounds — and with the help of her daughter Elisa and mother Kathleen has been busy nurturing a cult phenomenon.
“We painted hundreds of rocks to get them out into the community,” Shadow said.
They also partnered with Dam Donuts in Bellefonte, hiding six rocks with pastry inspired designs throughout the area that could in turn be exchanged for a free snack.
Having gotten a taste of the online hype, Sarge invited Happy Valley Rocks and neighboring enthusiasts into CCL’s community room for an informal painting session held Aug. 10.
It’s perfect because she had a fascination with rocks anyway.
Thanks to some visiting child artists and their adult chaperones, the event turned into the library’s biggest of the summer.
“This is, like, huge for us right now,” Sarge said.
A table near the door offered a wide selection of washable finger paints that seemed to pair quite nicely with the adjoining shoebox full of rocks. Hair dryers were also available to help expedite the drying process.
Helen Sundquist and her 4-year-old daughter, Libby, already knew the drill. They often paint rocks at home and Libby enjoys scavenging outdoor locations for hidden samples of other artists’ work.
“It’s perfect because she had a fascination with rocks anyway,” Sundquist said.
Some of the final designs never made it far from the library. One rock turned up under a bench out front, while another was hiding in plain sight near the steps of the post office on North Allegheny Street.
They’ll remain there until someone comes along and picks them up, becoming the next player in a countywide game.
“People like to get out and explore their communities,” Shadow said.