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Group Paints, Hides Rocks Around Memphis

Q&A with the co-founders of 901 Rocks!

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Cardiology nurse Lisa Dawson wanted to combine her children's desire to create with their daily use of technology — all while getting them outdoors. So she gave them rocks and paint. Her daughter's excitement led Dawson to the idea of creating a group to paint rocks, place them around Memphis, and post the photos online.

Dawson pitched the plan on Nextdoor.com to see if it would spark interest. It caught the attention of Amy McSpadden, an elementary school art teacher. Dawson and McSpadden created 901 Rocks!, a Facebook group that's garnered more than 6,700 members since July. Members paint rocks and hide them around town, posting clues on the 901 Rocks! page. When someone finds a rock, they often photograph themselves with it and post it on Facebook as well. Some keep the rocks they find, while others re-hide them for others to discover.

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Zoie Dawson shows off a 901 Rocks! creation. - 901 ROCKS!
  • 901 Rocks!
  • Zoie Dawson shows off a 901 Rocks! creation.

The Flyer spoke with Dawson and McSpadden about the group's beginnings and an event planned to bring more members aboard. — Joshua Cannon

Flyer: Tell me about the first rocks you hid.

McSpadden: I was determined to make this experience for Lisa's children rewarding, so I purposely planted my 901 Rocks in places that they would see them while on a family walk in the neighborhood. Her daughter, Zoie, found the first rock. It was a red and gold owl I placed in the knot of a tree at Peabody Elementary. Once I had hidden a few in Cooper-Young, the bug bit me. I found myself driving to local hot spots in Midtown and leaving treasures for others to find.

You've used the term "creactivity" to describe the project. What does that mean?

Dawson: When I began writing the description for the 901 Rocks! page, I started by saying I wanted to encourage creativity and activity in our community. I combined the two words into one: creactivity. I live in Midtown, and I feel art and being community-minded are our most defining characteristics. I have always had a desire to be part of something, and I wanted to include my children so we could make a difference and learn lessons as a family.

How did you grow to nearly 7,000 members on Facebook?

McSpadden: As an artist and elementary art teacher, I knew many local artists who I believed would embrace this opportunity to participate in a community art project. Next, I reached out to fellow educators. Many responded positively about the opportunity to share with their students and ways they would work it into their teaching. They, in return, invited other educators, friends, and family members.

How can people participate? Can they use any rock?

Dawson: Any rock can be transformed, although we found river rocks make the perfect canvas due to their smooth surface and larger size. Allow the shape of the rock to inspire your design. One may resemble a dinosaur head, a heart, or even a fruit wedge. Start with a clean rock. Paint on your design using acrylics, paint pens, or even Sharpies. Tag the back of the rock with #901Rocks, "Post a pic," and "Keep or Hide." We recommend sealing the rocks with a clear coat. One member shared she was using nail polishes to paint and clear nail polish to seal her rocks.

Do you have any events planned?

Dawson: The Rock-it Launch is scheduled for September 1st — that's 9/01. To participate, all we ask is you paint 10 rocks (9+01), and plant them around the city or wherever you travel.

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