They’re watching and waiting for you.
Lurking by flower pots, under benches, in doorways, behind public art, by fence posts.
And they want to go home with you. Or just to be moved to another location in town. Or go on vacation, only to be left behind at your destination.
Who are they? A rock group. Or more correctly, a group of rocks. Painted ones. And they like to have their picture taken and posted to Facebook pages dedicated to their existence.
Painted rocks are a phenomenon rapidly growing in popularity. Stones, decorated with anything from photo quality images of nature to faces, flags, animals, or inspirational sayings, are popping up all around town. In fact, more than 500 rocks are estimated to have rolled into Florence in the last several days.
Betty Blake, a volunteer at the Florence Area Chamber of Commerce, fields inquiries about painted rocks and their locations at the Chamber’s visitors center, and now, at the prompting of some friends, is painting and hiding some of her own.
Blake explains that enthusiasts—some professional artists, others amateurs joining the movement—decorate small stones and hide them in plain sight, or just out of sight but where finders won’t have to disturb the surroundings to find them. Finders are then expected to do any of several things with their find: photograph the stone as it was found and post it to one of the Facebook pages dedicated to the fad, take the stone and place it elsewhere and photograph it’s new home (including taking them on cross-country or international vacations), or if they are particularly fond of the stone, make it a keepsake.
“I’m told more than 500 new painted rocks are going to be left around Florence this week,” says Blake. “Many feature patriotic themes for the holiday while others are of coastal themes, animals, human faces, and encouraging phrases. Some of the images are of art gallery quality. They are phenomenal.”
Blake has painted several herself and is hiding them in and around town, but isn’t saying where.
“Some rock painters will leave them outside the shops, galleries, and restaurants in Old Town. Others will leave them in the dog park, Miller Park, or at the beach. Others may just appear in parking lots and sidewalks around town. You just never know where you’ll find one so keep your eyes peeled,” she says.
Facebook pages such as West Coast Painted Rocks and Florence Oregon Painted Rocks chronicle the journeys of the stones. Blake says that long-haul truck drivers are in on the fad and have taken the miniature pieces of art all around the country for others to find. People also track the stones’ wanderings with the hashtags #wcpr or #fopr.