UNIVERSAL CITY — Children and adults alike are spreading goodwill one stone at a time, thanks to a new Kindness Rock Garden at the Universal City Public Library.
Staff and participants recently held an initial painting session to kick off the garden at 100 Northview Drive.
“I really like (painting rocks) because, even though it’s a structured activity and the materials are sort of selected in advance, it still allows a lot of room for people to be creative,” said librarian Susan Ennis.
Megan Murphy inaugurated the Kindness Rock Project in 2015 during a visit to a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, beach.
The local display, featuring a variety of stony canvases, conveys caring, compassionate, motivational messages. Designs range from splattered paint to an encouraging quote, and can become more elaborate depending on the artist.
Sponsors said the rock-garden concept is simple: Anyone can leave kindhearted communiqués on stones. If visitors see an inspirational one, they may take it.
“People do really beautiful things and then they let go of them, and then other people pick them up and enjoy them. I think it’s a really nice way to spread goodwill and positive feelings in the community,” Ennis said.
There is something special about the process, said Vicki Sengele, a library clerk and creator of the garden.
“I don’t really know what the draw about rocks is, but they’re kind of magical anyway. I mean, if you’re out and about and you find a cool rock, people pick it up,” Sengele said. “Part of it is, you’re just pouring your love and creativity into it.”
Sengele, a former art teacher who also worked in special education, volunteered at the library for two years prior to being hired.
Part of her job is coordinating arts-and-crafts events, such as the Coloring Club or White Elephant Bingo for Young@Hearts, the library’s senior group.
Sengele felt called to spread kindness, so she suggested the idea of inspirational artwork on stones to the library.
“Libraries have changed. It was so focused on information in the past and I think as we develop these questions (about) books, the cloud and if paper is needed, libraries have become even more of a community place,” she said.
The library provides the supplies for creative sessions, including rocks, paint, brushes and sealant for weatherproofing. People are also welcome to bring their own items.
To begin, participants spray the surface with a clear acrylic sealer to make it less porous and easier to decorate. From there, the artistry ensues. Then, a final sealant is applied and the finished work is placed in the garden, located on the right side of the building.
“(Rock painting) is a creative outlet, and there’s not a high pressure to be fancy,” Sengele said. “A lot of times, especially with adults, but with kids, too, you have all this pressure to be good, but with a rock it’s easy.”
Seniors from Young@Hearts made the garden’s first contributions.
Mary Quandt said being involved in the group has been a helpful way to continue making crafts and have fun.
“It’s very inspirational when you think about it. People can go there and have a calming moment or be introspective, or it can be a surprise to people that a garden is there,” she said.
She’s attended three rock-painting classes.
Ennis said the rock garden has made a wonderful impression on the community.
There are three San Antonio-based organizations providing support: Rocks-Cibolo, Schertz, UC, Texas; San Antonio Rocks; and Alamo Rocks.
These clubs donate art supplies, stones and help promote painting events.
For more, visit www.facebook.com/UniversalCityPublicLibrary/ to get updates on the Kindness Rock Garden and the next gathering, or call the library at 210-659-7048.