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901 Rocks!

Have you heard of 901 Rocks, the new game that’s sweeping through Memphis? Created by Midtown residents Lisa Dawson and Amy McSpadden, 901 Rocks combines arts and crafts with treasure hunting. The rules are simple:

  1. Paint a rock.
  2. Tag it with “#901Rocks.”
  3. Hide it somewhere in the Memphis area.
  4. Look around for more rocks.

Jeanie Whinghter 901 Rocks
Batch of rocks ready to go. Photo courtesy of Jeanie Whinghter

The rest is up to you! Your designs can be as detailed or simple as you like. Some people create tiny works of art while others write a message in permanent marker. You can keep the rocks you find or re-hide them for someone else to find. You can stick to your own neighborhood or use it as an excuse to explore the city. The possibilities are endless and anyone can do it, no matter their age or skill level. It's also turned out to be a great ice breaker. Members of the Memphis Moms Blog Cordova & Bartlett Community Group recently made a play date out of rock painting!

You might get more paint on yourself than the rock and that's okay, too.
You might get more paint on yourself than the rock and that's okay, too. (Photo courtesy of Anne Cazalas)

If you’re on Facebook you can join the 901 Rocks! Group, which has blossomed into a huge and incredible community of “Art Farmers” since its inception in mid-July. Co-founder Lisa Dawson says, “I started 901 Rocks so my children could create rock treasures and hide them for others to find. To get our neighborhood involved, I pitched the idea on the Nextdoor app. A few people shared my excitement, so on July 15th, I started the Facebook group. I had no idea the handful of people that responded to my initial post would grow to almost 8000 members in just over a month!”

A large part of that is thanks to Amy McSpadden, a teacher who took to the idea right away after seeing it on Nextdoor. “As soon as I went out and started hiding rocks that was all she wrote," Amy says. "I found myself driving all over midtown to local family hotspots leaving treasures for unsuspecting people passing by.  My hope was something would catch their eye and they would investigate further.” Amy dubbed herself “Membership Chairman” and started recruiting friends, artists and fellow educators to the group. “Memphis needed this. We have coined our own words and phrases. Lisa created the word CreActivity by blending what this really is, a creative activity. We have built a story around what our members do. We encourage them to go out and plant joy because they are Art Farmers. We have Treasure Hunters who venture out to find their joy even if they don’t find an actual 901Rock rock we hope they enjoy the journey they took to get to where they were going."

901 Rocks sharkshirt
(Photo courtesy of Tara Burnett-Smith)

Lisa says, "It's a wonderful thing to see happening: people smile when they hide a rock, they smile when they find a rock and they smile when they see their special rock has been found.  Such a small gesture that can initiate a big change just by knowing you planted a piece of joy that someone will find."

Finding a little love, then spreading it back around. (Photo courtesy of Lori Parish)
Finding a little love, then spreading it back around. (Photo courtesy of Lori Parish)

901 Rocks Tips

  • You can purchase smooth river rocks from craft/dollar stores or use whatever you can find in your own backyard.
  • Acrylic paint seems to work best for base coats and paint pens are excellent for writing.
  • Sealing the rock before planting is essential, to make sure the design stays put. Craft stores sell outdoor sealer in a paste or a spray but some Art Farmers have successfully used clear nail polish.
  • You don't need the internet at all to participate, but if you want to encourage people to look for your rock, post a clue in the 901 Rocks Facebook group or on your social media of choice (be sure to tag it #901Rocks!)

Spotted at an East Memphis "Little Free Library"
Spotted at an East Memphis "Little Free Library"

Lisa and Amy’s hope for 901 Rocks is that it outlives the fad stage and continues on as a bit of Memphis history. Amy says, “I dream of a family months (maybe even years from now) walking through Overton Park and out of the corner of someone’s eye they spy a little bit of joy someone planted many moons before. I hope they are inspired to find out why that little rock was there and even more importantly motivated to plant a little joy through a family CreActivity of their own.”

901 Rocks MMB

Are you an Art Farmer? Where has your hunt for a 901 Rock taken you?

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