Rock star: City woman gets creative with rock garden

Check out this post with Megan Murphy and her book The Kindness Rocks Journal

City of Grosse Pointe resident Nancy Olkowski is making lemonade out of lemons.

More accurately, she’s making lemon-colored rocks after COVID-19 soured any hope of the Grosse Pointe Art Rocks project getting off the ground again this year.

“It’s fun and exciting to see people young and old hiding and finding rocks,” she said. “It’s a happy thing to see. It’s really been amazing; everyone is so fun and kind.”

This year, however, the onset of the coronavirus gave Olkowski and her Facebook page partner, “Momcat” Kelly Konieczki, reason to pause the project. Following the lead of The Kindness Rocks Project founder Megan Murphy — whose painted rocks idea sparked a national movement — they put Grosse Pointe Art Rocks on hold.

“When this all struck, she wasn’t comfortable with hiding rocks and having people touch them,” Olkowski said. “So we put it on hiatus for the time being.”

Which left Olkowski with some time — and a lot of rocks — on her hands. The clay sculptor for General Motors decided to focus her attention closer to home.

“I’ve been off work for a few months and this is something I’ve wanted to do,” she said. “It’s kind of like a self-portrait I was working on.”

Olkowski painstakingly painted and arranged thousands of brightly colored rocks in her backyard, making a 20-by-15-foot rock garden over the last couple of months. Using rocks she had gathered from trips to Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, as well as some she “had around” from Grosse Pointe Art Rocks, she separated rocks into piles, laid them on cardboard, spray painted them and let them dry before configuring them into a formation she describes as “Willy Wonka” meets “The Wizard of Oz.”

“I went with a color scheme I had in mind,” she said, “but then made it up as I went along. I’m a big fan of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ so of course I had to add a yellow brick road.”

Olkowski’s gotten quite a reaction from people who’ve seen it, including Murphy, who intends to share a photo of the rock garden on her national page.

Nancy Olkowski and her son, Troy, 12.

“Everybody seems to really love it,” Olkowski said, “especially when they see it in person, because it’s bigger than it looks in photographs. I love looking at it.

“It’s been a fun thing to do,” she added, “and it makes me smile every day.”

The joy the rock garden has created for her, however, does not fully replace the community-centric Grosse Pointe Art Rocks.

the kindness rocks journal

An Interactive Space to Work through Difficult Times and Create Inspiring Messages to Share with Others (Rocks for Painting, for Fans of Pebble for your Thoughts)

Now more than ever, people are longing for kindness and connection. During these uncertain times, daily news reports focus on disturbing events such as drug addiction, acts of terrorism, gun violence, airplane rage, senseless murders and political bickering. We are being bombarded daily with images that evoke a sense of fear and hostility. The Kindness Rocks Journal provides a positive counteraction to all this negativity. The tagline for The Kindness Rocks Project is “one message at just the right time can change your entire day, outlook, life.” Sometimes, all it takes is just one simple positive message or thought to change your perspective and that is what this journal aims to do.

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