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Oct 29

Check out the newly installed rock garden and historical marker

Posted on October 29, 2020 at 4:05 PM by Becky Burnside

A Kindness Rocks Garden and a new historical marker are recent additions to the grounds of the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center (JCAHC). 

“We are hoping to bring some light to an otherwise dark time in our history,” Fine Arts Coordinator Devin Graham said of the rock garden. “There are so many frightening and negative things happening in our world right now, it is easy to forget that there is also plenty of good. Hopefully this rock garden will make someone smile and remember that life is good, even when it doesn’t always seem that way.”

The idea behind this “garden” is simple: people can take a painted stone they find there that motivates them, and leave ones they’ve painted in their place to motivate others.

The garden began in late October with about 100 rocks painted by Shannon Levin of the Overland Park Painted Rocks Group, which is part of The Kindness Rocks Project™, a national movement. Levin approached Graham about establishing the garden at JCAHC.

The Kindness Rocks Garden is located to the east (right) of the front entrance of JCAHC within the landscaping, and prior to going under the entry awning. When it began, it occupied an area approximately one foot by four feet, but Devin hopes with will grow considerably with community participation. 

“Our goal is that the rock garden expand to 20 feet or more, but in order to do so, we need our community’s help,” she said. “We would love to have anyone in our community bring by a rock, or two, or twenty, to join the garden and spread kindness to others. And, of course, feel free to take one if they feel so inspired.”

The current plan is for the garden to stay in place through the end of the year, but if the project receives positive feedback and participation, it could be extended.

“My six-year-old son helped me lay some of the rocks down recently, and he was so excited about creating some of his own; this could really be a family-wide activity for all ages,” Graham said. “And the best part, it is user-friendly for both artists and non-artists.” 

The painted rocks can be anything that inspires a person, from a few colors painted atop the rock, a favorite inspirational quote, or even a favorite character from a movie or book. While creative freedom is encouraged and welcome, it is asked that participants keep the friendly and without agenda. 

Painted rock

“We really want the focus to be on spreading kindness,” Graham explained. “In order to be respectful of other’s opinions and beliefs, we are asking participants to refrain from any political, religious, or otherwise inappropriate content. The Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center is regularly monitoring the Kindness Rocks Garden and retains the right to remove rocks if necessary.”

Graham is currently planning a program about rock painting, but details have yet to be finalized. Watch for an announcement on the rock garden’s web page.

The new historical marker was recently installed just south of the entrance to JCAHC. Created by the Native Sons and Daughters of Greater Kansas City (NSDGKC), the two-sided marker is the first the organization has placed in Johnson County. The marker’s text talks broadly about the heritage of Johnson County and mentions its native peoples, exploration in the 1700s, establishment of the county in 1855, the population growth since World War II, and the transition from an agricultural-based economy to one that is commerce-based.

Historical Marker at Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center

The marker was created to honor Johnson County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Ed Eilert, who was recently named as one of NSDGKC’s Outstanding Kansas Citians for 2020. Eilert has served as chair since 2010, previously served as a commissioner from 2006 to 2010, and earlier served on the Overland Park City Council for four years and as mayor of Overland Park for 24 years.  

Eilert and Kansas State  University  President, Retired  General, and former Chair of the United States Armed Forces Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Myers, will be formally recognized with the Outstanding Kansas Citians Award during a gala rescheduled for November 2021. For more on NSDGKC and the awards, go to