Smiling faces adorn colourful rocks painted like ladybugs by Kat Woodcock.(Submitted)

Original Published on Aug 04, 2022 at 08:40

By Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Walking through the shady, tree-lined streets in Neepawa, it’s easy to see why it has been called the prettiest town in Manitoba. In summertime, gardens are a riot of colour and murals adorn buildings downtown. Hidden away on sidewalks, footpaths, at the roots of trees and amid flowers are colourful, shiny rocks.

The rocks have been lovingly painted, lacquered and hidden around town by a group of artists, from all ages and backgrounds, that are part of the Neepawa Rocks artist community.

Kat Woodcock, a resident of Neepawa, located 74 kilometres northeast of Brandon, started painting rocks in 2018 after finding one hidden away. She likes to hide them in the parking lot of the Neepawa Hospital, where she works.

“I thought it was a really neat idea. I found out there were rock pages locally [on Facebook], so I joined one,” Woodcock said. “I know someone will find them and smile, even if I never know where they end up.”

Woodcock said the excitement that comes from hiding rocks and then having people find them is a joyful experience, much like a treasure hunt.

“I like seeing when people post that they’ve found a painted rock, especially the smiles on little kids.”

Despite how many children are involved in painting and hiding rocks, Woodcock said the activity is for people of all ages.

“I know of adults that find one, and it can make their day. You never know what someone is going through. Something as simple as a painted rock can put a smile on someone’s face.”

Rock groups such as Neepawa Rocks are flourishing through the province and the country, as can be seen on social media. Woodcock said it’s something so simple, and yet so positive, that can make a real difference for many people.

“Painting can be very therapeutic, and anyone can do it. All you need is some water-based acrylic paint, rocks and a little bit of time.”

Yvonne Sisley, administrator at ArtsForward, the central arts venue in Neepawa, said she’s happy to see so many artists in Neepawa taking part in rock painting. ArtsForward has even incorporated the rocks into some of their children’s art programming.

“It has made it a lot prettier around town with all the painted rocks,” Sisley said.

It’s also a way for people who are new to art, or nervous about getting started, to dip their toes into painting.

“A lot of people are too shy to display their work, so Neepawa Rocks has given people that opportunity. They can paint and they can hide it and nobody knows it was them that did it,” Sisley said.

Getting more people interested in art, and nurturing the town’s already-vibrant artist scene, is extremely important, Sisley said. The fact that the rocks are helping Neepawa make a name for itself around the world is also something Sisley said she is excited about.

“Anyone visiting our town from different provinces, or even different countries, have taken those rocks, too, and they’ve been hidden all over. That’s what’s super cool about it. It’s art that gets to travel and gets shared.”

This item reprinted with permission from the Sun, Brandon, Manitoba