FROM READERS: Columbia native starts public art project, This Is Your Rock

Friday, February 22, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:43 p.m. CST, Saturday, February 23, 2013
Dar Hosta James paints small rocks and leaves them in public places for people to find. On the back of the rock, she paints a website address for finders of the rock to document where they found them.

Dar Hosta James is an artist who writes and illustrates books and makes paintings. In her spare time, she paints small rocks and leaves them for passers-by to find. She keeps a blog, This Is Your Rock, to document the project. This post originally appeared on her blog. Dar grew up in Columbia where she attended Hickman High School and MU. She currently lives in New Jersey. She was in town in January to visit at Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School and a program at the Columbia Public Library.

A few years ago I started collecting smooth, white rocks along the Jersey shore. I take them into my studio where I wash them, prep them with a medium and do little paintings on them in ink, which I sometimes sell as a side item at the art shows I do. But, I have come to find that they make good gifts and that people like a nice, smooth, white rock just about as much as I do, particularly when it has a pretty little tree or something on it.


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About a year after I began making these little painted rocks, I read an interesting article about guerrilla art — art that is left in a public place for whomever comes by and takes it. Though it has never happened to me, I love the idea of finding a surprise piece of art and, since then, I have continually thought about how I could participate in this kind of a public art project. Technically speaking, most guerrilla artists remain anonymous and many of them use this method to participate in social or political activism. I can appreciate that kind of art, however, I am not really what you’d call an activist and I don’t necessarily wish to be anonymous. I just want give someone out there that little finding-a-piece-of-art surprise. And I like to paint rocks.

I left a rock on Sunday, January 20, 2013, at the Old Rt. 63 parking lot entrance next to a bench at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, MO — where I grew up. Hickman class of ’86 and Mizzou ’92.

Rock #12 was found by the girl you see in this picture. I love the story of how she got it. … Her mother, who lives in Topeka, KS, met me on Carla Sonheim’s blog where we both commented and she then became a subscriber of my 52 Mondays blog, Cranky Birds and This Is Your Rock. When I posted that this rock was left at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia, she called her daughter who is a student at Stephens College and told her where to find it. And, her daughter went out and found it in the dark! Awesome. So glad it has a good home and I hope it brings you lots of wonderful luck.

This story is part of a section of the Missourian called From Readers, which is dedicated to your voices and your stories. We hope you'll consider sharing. Here's how. Supervising editor Joy Mayer.

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