Spreading kindness in Schenectady County — with rocks

Photo Kristin Schultz
A group of community members, including members of the Niskayuna Mom's Group, gathered to paint Kindness Rocks.Photo Kristin Schultz A group of community members, including members of the Niskayuna Mom's Group, gathered to paint Kindness Rocks.

Kristin Schultz

Daily Gazette

It may seem hate and rancor are eclipsing kindness these days, but an international project has come to Schenectady County with the goal of flipping the script on nastiness.

The Kindness Rock Project started in 2015 in Cape Cod and has taken hold worldwide. Thanks to a partnership between CREATE Community Studios and Niskayuna Moms’ Group, the project has also taken hold locally.

The concept is simple: Decorate a palm-sized rock with paint and uplifting messages. Then, leave the rock in a place where another person can find it. The finder can then keep it for a perpetual pick-me-up or re-hide it somewhere to pass on the cheer.

Anyone who finds a stone is encouraged to take a picture of it and post it to the Schenectady County Kindness Rocks Facebook page with the hashtag, #thekindnessrocksproject.

Locals, including many members of the Niskayuna Moms’ Group, gathered Sunday for the first time at CREATE Community Studios to paint kindness rocks. In light of recent violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, they also made postcards of encouragement to send to those affected by the violence.

“It’s so timely,” said CREATE co-founder Heather Hutchison. “You can make something positive and put it out in the world. People are searching for positivity.”

CREATE has studios in Schenectady and Saratoga Springs. Last week, a group also gathered for a workshop at the Saratoga studio to make kindness rocks and postcards.

In Schenectady, parents and children sat around rectangular tables in the studio’s sunny storefront on State Street covering rocks with plain and sparkly acrylic paint. Then, they used paint pens and Sharpies to write positive messages. One rock read: You’re out of this world. Another read: Peace. Aanother was simply painted with rainbows.

Outside the studio, under a young tree, is a collection of painted kindness rocks for passersby to pick up. The rock garden was started as part of the studio’s grand opening in June.

“People stop and notice,” said Hutchison. “It’s a conversation piece.”

Photo Kristin Schultz The Kindness Rock Garden on State Street outside of the CREATE Community Studio's storefront.

Photo Kristin Schultz
The Kindness Rock Garden on State Street outside of the CREATE Community Studio’s storefront.

For Niskayuna Moms’ Group co-chair Stephanie Grimason, spreading kindness is more important now than ever.

“It’s a chance to teach our kids,” Grimason said. “What does it mean to be kind? What does it mean to help others?”

Once the rocks were painted, they received a clear, enamel finishing coat to protect the art. Participants could then take the rocks and place them around town and the county.

In addition to being timely, the project fits with CREATE’s mission to create community using art. Parents and children worked together to paint dozens of rocks that they brought in or that Hutchison provided out of a stash she herself has collected.

While this may have been one of the larger, more organized efforts to paint and distribute kindness rocks, it seems a few others had already been involved with the project. Grimason found one of the happy stones in the lending library box at Niskayuna Town Hall.

“It was just tucked inside,” Grimason said. “It’s exciting for kids and adults, too.”

For more information on CREATE Community Studios, go to createcommunitystudios.com. For more information about the local project, go to facebook.com/schenectady-county-kindness-rock-project.