As you walk through East Campus, whether you’re coming from a filling E-Hall Brunch or rushing to an early class, you’ll notice the mountains, the glassy buildings, the wide expanses of field, and, in the middle of everything, a massive, brightly painted rock. This is the Spirit Rock, which was installed in the middle of East Campus at the beginning of Spring in 2011. The rock represents the JMU community’s diverse thought and allows for everyone to express themselves. This rock has become a fixture of the JMU campus community, but how did it come to be?
The Spirit Rock was the first project completed by The Madison Society here at JMU. The Madison Society is a university organization comprised of faculty, staff, and students who bleed purple and seek to make an impact on the JMU community. The organization was based on Ohio Staters at Ohio State University. Both organizations work to create and uphold positive campus traditions.
After its creation, at just fifteen members strong, the Madison Society set out to make a name for itself by working towards the implementation of the Spirit Rock. They wanted to create a place for respectful free expression on campus, and a paintable rock met this need. At the time, construction of the UPark Athletic Fields was in full swing, so the Madison Society used their connections to score a rock from the site. With the rock secured, it was painted bright white, set in the field on East Campus, and shrouded with a large box. In the coming weeks, campus was atwitter with speculations on what resided beneath that box, but the secret had yet to be revealed.
On March 16th, 2011, the box was lifted and the rock was displayed to the world. The day was cold and rainy, but there was a celebratory energy on campus as it was James Madison’s Birthday. Under the cover of a tent, students were able to sign their names on the white rock. While this new fixture was somewhat scary (as all change is) it was well received, and those who signed their name on the rock had no idea that some ten years later, their signatures would be covered by anywhere from 500-600 layers of paint.
The now-omnipresent Spirit Rock has seen a lot; whether that be small messages to friends, advertisements for events, marriage proposals, election opinions, or social justice issues, the rock has served and will continue to serve our campus by being a place of respectful, well-meaning free speech.
Do you have something to say that the campus could benefit from hearing? Grab some paint, register, and head to the Spirit Rock.
Reserve the Spirit Rock
Painting the Spirit Rock is a time-honored tradition for the free expression of ideas and opinions, support for causes, memorial tributes, and sharing information about upcoming events.
To enhance the experience and provide greater opportunity for our community to enjoy the efforts that painting the Rock can bring, a new reservation process has been implemented that will allow individuals and groups on a first-come, first-serve basis to reserve 24 hours to display a message on the Rock.
To reserve a day to paint the Spirit Rock, anyone with an account can make a request in the campus event scheduling system, VirtualEMS, or those without an account can simply call the Madison Society 568-3341 to obtain access.
- The Spirit Rock is a space for the free expression of ideas and opinions, support for causes, memorial tributes, and sharing information about upcoming events.
- You must show respect to the JMU community by what you paint on it.
- Individuals or groups painting the Rock assume liability for any individual who may be injured or incur clothing damage.
- Individuals/groups must furnish their own paint and supplies to paint the Rock.
- Reservations to display a message for 24 hours are made on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Remember: Defacing the Spirit Rock is completely contrary to the spirit of the Rock. Such acts will not be tolerated, and offenders will be held responsible for their actions.