Rock On!

Students hunt for painted rocks around campus

Jaime Becker had little hope. The Instagram post was made hours ago. 

But when she walked to class, Becker, a second-year oceanography student at Dalhousie University, noticed it lying atop the sundial. She sprinted across Studley Quad to grab the blue mandala rock, worried that anyone and everyone around her was eyeing it.  

About a week earlier, Kira Ridgley, a second-year English student at Dal, was in the Student Union Building scrolling through her Instagram feed. One post caught her attention: “The pink rock is near the SUB by the bus stop,” the caption read. “Posted four minutes ago.”  

Ridgley bolted outside and found the pink rock speckled with white flowers awaiting her. 

The second-year students are two of many joining the scavenger hunt for painted rocks hidden around campus by Instagram page @Dalhousie_rocks. 

“I like the way that they paint. I like the designs they make,” says Becker. “I just want as many as I can find.” 

“I like the idea of having something that somebody painted on,” says Ridgley. 

Becker discovered the page when it requested to follow her. She excitedly accepted the request and followed the page back. Ridgley followed the page after reading a post about it on Dal Mobile.  

Immediately after following the account, both Becker and Ridgley turned post notifications on. They hoped it would give them a chance to find rocks before they were gone.  

Behind the page 

As of October 2021, Dalhousie Rocks’ Instagram page has over 360 followers, and more trickle in every day. Running it is one Dalhousie student, who wishes to remain anonymous.  

The Dalhousie Gazette has granted the anonymity request due to the artist’s previous experiences with a stalker. The author is concerned that being named in the article could reveal her location, making her vulnerable to further harassment.  

She created the Instagram account on Sept. 6, the day before school started. Hoping it would gain traction, Dalhousie Rocks made an introductory post. The next day, she carried a large rock concealed in a lunchbox to a bench in front of the Henry Hicks Building. After sitting for a while, she got up and casually left the rock behind. She posted a photo hinting its location.  

That was the beginning. 

Now, Dalhousie Rocks prepares rocks to hide every weekend. She spends one day painting and another sealing the rocks, which are painted in layers. After each brush of colour, Dalhousie Rocks leaves them to dry and returns intermittently to add more layers. Depending on how many she does, the painting can take three to four hours. Each rock is numbered, allowing her to track how many she decorates. 

Some designs stem from Halifax pop culture references, while others are inspired by Pinterest. The collection includes Halifax icons like the Ikea shark and the Dal Memes Instagram account profile picture. Other designs feature fruits and animals.  

Following the design process, Dalhousie Rocks curates photos to post as previews. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she scatters the rocks around campus and posts stories hinting at where they’re hidden.  

Spreading happiness through art 

Before bringing rocks to life, Dalhousie Rocks’ creative outlets included digital art, watercolour painting, wood burning and making jewelry. But she wanted to find a way to share her art with others. 

“That’s kind of why I create art,” she says. “I like to make people happy with it.”  

In the summer, she found a painted rock while walking with a friend. That’s when it hit her.  

“I was like, ‘Oh, I should really do this year.’” 

From there, Dalhousie Rocks was born. With the help of a friend, she filled a backpack with rocks at Point Pleasant Park and dug out her old acrylic paints left over from a class she’d taken. Since then, she’s hidden 17 rocks. She’s also asked for design suggestions, which she then painted and hid specifically for the people who submitted them.  

Like she’d hoped, Dalhousie Rocks’ is making students happy. Becker and Ridgley turned to Instagram, where it all started, to share their finds and feelings. 

“I cannot even put into words my joy when I found this pretty rock,” Ridgley wrote on an Instagram story of the pink rock sitting on her bookshelf. “This will be the thing that gets me through this degree. I am confident!” 

“We found the rocks!! I’m so happy,” wrote Becker, tagging Dalhousie Rocks in a photo of her, her friend and the rocks they found. 

Dalhousie Rocks doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon. Before winter hits, she’ll stockpile rocks so the Easter egg hunt can carry on. She plans to continue until at least next year and says she may eventually hide rocks beyond campus. Good news for devoted rock hunters – and for her too. 

“I’m kind of hooked on it,” she said, laughing. 

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Alexis Moffett

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