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The Oberlin rocks have been painted for over forty years. Buried within their several inches of paint are thousands of messages left by people from many walks of life who have painted the rocks in happy and trying times. They have celebrated birthdays, made announcements about sporting events, music recitals, politics, of life and death, and much else. These weekly (sometimes daily) messages are short-lived—a few strokes or sprays of paint and the bumpy canvas is ready for a new artist—but does that mean they have been lost for good?

When my family and I moved back to Oberlin in 1988 after living in central Ohio for twelve years, I discovered a photo. It was of a painting of the Mona Lisa on one of the rocks on Tappan Square. The message on the rock read: Art Club. The depiction of the Mona Lisa was very impressive and it made me think: “I wonder what other great rock paintings I’ve missed in the years I have been away. I wish I had photos of all of them. And for that matter, I wish I had a record of all the neat paintings I had seen since the rocks first started being painted in the 1960’s”.

I thought it would be an interesting project to collect photos of rock paintings and publish a book. I had plans to advertise in local newspapers and the Oberlin College Alumni Magazine requesting photos and their stories.

Well, here we are in 2008. And we have the perfect medium of the Internet to broadcast a request for photos and to gather and display them. So I started this project to collect all the paintings and their stories I could find. Please scan your photos, write your stories and send them our way to help archive and share this part of Oberlin’s history.

The three rocks on Oberlin College’s Tappan Square were placed there at different times. They are monuments from the classes of 1882, 1898, and in honor of the founders of Oberlin College, John Jay Shipherd and Philo Stewart.

The ever changing murals on the rocks are an interesting reflection of life in Oberlin, and beyond. Welcome to OberlinRocks.com and enjoy the paintings and stories.

Continue to the blog for photos.

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