After a long day being a full-time mom, Dawn Kendall sets a washed newfound brick, cleaned of ants and dirt, on her kitchen counter. She then pulls plastic bins with art supplies from their hiding places in her two-bedroom apartment and waits for the brick to dry completely.
In the calm and quiet night, she unwinds and spends an hour painting what is for her a sacred family home — a brownstone that used to stand in Carroll Gardens.
Once done, she snaps a photo and posts on a Facebook page called ‘Bay Ridge Rocks!’ which has gained a following of 2,013 members in the seven months since the two moms who founded what has become a neighborhood-wide movement left their first painted rocks for strangers to find here and there around the community.
“The nice thing about it is that it’s taken on a life of its own,” said Bay Ridge Rocks co-founder Rana Abu-Sbaih, “it’s great to see people taking them and traveling with them.”
Beginning in June, Kendall was inspired to commemorate her old home after former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort gutted the home to shambles. “My great-grandmother had all her children there. My family lived there for 100 years,” she said in an exclusive interview. The property was sold in 1993.
In addition to leaving the painted bricks in the neighborhood, Kendall has also started shipping them to family members. Cousins in Virginia and upstate New York, an uncle in Kentucky, and an aunt in New Jersey have so far received the intricate and detailed artwork.
“I’m afraid to do the math, but I do pay for all the materials myself. But, I’ve gotten so much feedback, and I am absolutely blown away.” she said.
“I think I’m still going to continue painting brownstones even if I do paint something new. It gives me a creative outlet,” said Kendall. When she first started, Kendall said she originally painted pigeons, and remembers finding her first rock at 77th Street and Third Avenue after seeing the group featured on television.
“It was an egg over easy rock, and I spotted it from about half a block away. I was so excited, everyone must have thought I was crazy. I kept it,” she said, remembering that her five-year-old son Frank had been right on her heels. In fact, Kendall said, many moms have agreed it is easier to get kids active and outside if they know they’re going rock hunting, and it really is “bringing people out of the house.
“He’ll find blank rocks for us to paint,” said Kendall about her son. “He does paint them but we’re not allowed to hide them. We’re working on that.”
Overall, the Bay Ridge Rocks experience has been a wonderful one for Kendall, who calls Bay Ridge, “Small town New York City.
“I have never met or made so many friends as I have with Bay Ridge Rocks,” she noted, “and Bay Ridge has been a tremendous part of my life. Everybody knows each other here. It’s a place I always feel is a comfortable place to be.”