Off Beat: Clark College painted rock hunt has a sweet reward

and Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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Clark College is off to a rockin’ start.

Classes are beginning today at Clark, and some people might be lining up for a special taste of the college experience.

Or to be more precise, the taste of a Clark College cookie.

It’s part of a new outreach program that taps into the Vancouver Rocks! community art movement.

Penguin Nation has hidden 100 hand-painted rocks in parks and other public spaces around Southwest Washington. Each Clark-themed rock can be identified by a label on the back.

A person who finds one can redeem it for a cookie at the college’s Welcome Center, in Gaiser Hall on the main campus, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way.

The cookies are a way to introduce the public to the new McClaskey Culinary Institute.

“We’re excited because the culinary program has been on hiatus,” college spokeswoman Hannah Erickson said.

There is one special rock, painted by Clark’s culinary faculty; the finder will receive lunch for two at the culinary institute.

Rocks can be redeemed today through Dec. 31.

The rocks were purchased at a home improvement store. Most of them were decorated in a painting party, Erickson said.

Painters included faculty and staff members, as well as some of their children, and some Clark students.

“The goal was to sum up what Clark College meant to them,” she said, such as a penguin with a diploma.

“The chime tower looks an awful lot like a rocket,” Erickson pointed out. “That’s because the young artist thinks the chime tower looks an awful lot like a rocket,” Erickson said.

The mother of that 5-year-old artist added this note: “Clark can help rocket you to your next destination.”

One contributor painted a baby’s footprint on her rock. On the project’s Facebook page, the artist explained: “Clark College was the first step I took ‘on my own’ after high school. I met my husband here, graduated, and moved on to WSU.”

Off Beat lets members of The Columbian news team step back from our newspaper beats to write the story behind the story, fill in the story or just tell a story.