Sometimes all it takes to help bring a smile to someone’s face is an inspiring message or a colourful image. Through painted rocks hidden in public places, that’s just what the Aroche-moi un sourire (show me a smile) movement is trying to spark. Originating four years ago in Granby, the movement combines craftiness and creativity as plain pebbles, rocks, or stones are transformed with images or inspiring messages and left for others to find.
Conveying the same sentiment as the ça va bien aller signs and rainbows that spread across the province during the beginning of the pandemic, each unique rock carries a message designed to bring hope and happiness.
The concept is simple: paint rocks and place them where others might find them. That can be along forest paths, sidewalks, in parks, or propped up against municipal mailboxes. The person who discovers a painted rock is invited to take a picture of it and share it with the public aROCHEmoiunSOURIRE Facebook group using the hashtag #arochemoiunsourire. Then, they can leave their find for the next passerby, or take it and paint a new one to leave in its place. By snapping a photo and sharing it online, the creator of the art piece can see that their gift has been found and watch if it travels to a new location.
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The Quebec-based Facebook group for the movement was created in 2018 and now counts over 59,000 members — including almost 3,000 who joined during just one week in September.
Some of the photos shared on the Facebook group include interactive designs that invite the finder to contribute to a rock-based group project, while others are intricate illustrations of figures from popular culture, holiday-themed, and beautifully painted nature scenes. You can also find tutorials and tips on how to create your own rocks including using napkins and mod podge for a whole new kind of design. In the “files” tab there are directions and a bilingual PDF of printable labels that you can paste to the back of your rocks so that finders know their meaning.
An activity for everyone
Stories on the Facebook group include a woman who found a rock painted with the word “courage” as she was heading to a hospital oncology appointment, and a nervous kindergartener whose find helped give her a boost of encouragement as she headed off to school.
Daycare groups, school classes, and Scout troops are some of the artists behind the one-of-a-kind creations. Decorating and stashing your own set of rocks is a fun way to liven up a neighbourhood family walk, and a neat way to get the kids involved in a craft project that may travel the province.
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And it’s fun to imagine where your rock will end up and who it may inspire or help.