ANSONIA – When Dana Martinez and Annie Fisher scatter rocks they have collected, they are never quite sure where they are going to land. Some stay in the Ansonia area, where they drive school buses for All-Star Transportation, while others end up in places as far away as Florida, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
People who find the rocks treasure them because Martinez and Fisher have painted them with colorful images and inspirational words. So, wherever the rocks find a home is fine with the two ladies, because their goal is to spread a little joy. They call their project Valley Rocks CT.
“I saw painted rocks in Stuart, Florida, while visiting my sister,” Martinez said as she explained how her rock art began. On the back of the painted rocks was the inscription, Martin County Rocks. A Florida family started Martin County Rocks, hand painting rocks and tucking them in various locations for people to find.
In March, following her return from Florida and while coping with her late father’s illness, Martinez decided to launch Valley Rocks CT. For weeks, her husband, sister and brother-in-law painted rocks. Soon, Fisher joined the effort, painting rocks and helping to manage a Facebook page that now has more than 570 members.
“We just wanted to bring smiles to people,” says Martinez, who has been driving for All-Star for 10 years.
Fisher said that when Martinez first told her about the rocks, she thought it was “pretty interesting.” But she wasn’t sold on the idea until “I found one at a grocery store, and it brought a smile to my face.” Now Fisher, who has been driving for All-Star for 13 years, paints inspirational messages on her rocks.
“We bring them on charters and to the schools where we drive. It’s fun,” Martinez says. The high school students who ride her bus went wild over them this past spring, taking as many as they could.
She also tells the story of a woman who found one of their rocks that featured a painting of a lighthouse. The woman and her father had visited a lighthouse shortly before his death, and the discovery of the rock “helped her get though a rough day.”
The pair note that rock painting is a fun project for families. They also have hosted “pop-up parties” in local parks, where they invite their Facebook followers to join them for group painting sessions. Martinez also placed some of the painted rocks at the hospice that cared for her father, explaining, “It was nice. Something so simple had an impact on people.”
Both Martinez and Fisher said they didn’t consider themselves to be especially artistic or creative. “We didn’t know we could draw,” says Martinez, adding that no special talent is required and that anyone can create their own hand-painted rocks.
Some creations take a few minutes, while others can take hours. All that’s required is a good paint brush and some acrylic paint, and after a painting is done, a splash of clear coat to seal the final product from the elements. Then comes distribution.
“We don’t hide them. We just leave them for people to find. They can keep it, take it home, move it or replace it,” says Martinez. People can then contact their Facebook page to send photos of what the rocks have found or to post photos of their own creations.
To join the fun, check out Valley Rocks CT on Facebook and send a message.