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Cape Cod Rocks! Awarded Cultural Grant

Updated: Feb 1


Pink granite is ingrained in Falmouth's history. Quarried back in the 1800s along West Falmouth Ridge—an area that ran between what is today Routes 28 and 28A, from Route 151 to Wishing Moon Hill in Sippewissett—the lightly colored rock was used in many of the town's earliest buildings. It was also chosen for John F. Kennedy's permanent memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, as a testament to the president's fondness for the Cape Cod region.


Now that legacy will be furthered by a new entrepreneurial project, Cape Cod Rocks!, sponsored by the North Falmouth Village Association. The project will use locally found pieces of pink granite to create thumb tacks and magnets, packages of which will be assembled for sale by workers at Cape Abilities, the regionally based organization that provides education, counseling, and support for individuals with disabilities. The project—which received a 2022 grant from the Falmouth Cultural Council—will commemorate one the town's earliest industries and ultimately provide opportunities for students, families and other community members to learn about the mineral's importance to the town's culture and history.


"The goal of the North Falmouth Village Association has always been to foster community," says NFVA President Peggy Heaslip, "and Cape Cod Rocks! does that while also raising awareness of a little-known aspect of our local history. We're looking forward to collaborating with Cape Abilities, our newest business partner, and to creating another point of connection that can strengthen everyone's ties to the town and to one another."


The project is being spearheaded by Ilene Karnow, an NFVA board member, who says the idea stems from a sailing trip she took to Maine four years ago, when she encountered the work of an artist who used Maine's indigenous rocks—quartz, feldspar, mica, and other pegmatites—among his materials.


"Maine is renowned among rock hounds, and artists often use them in their work—on Etsy, you can find pages of artwork using Maine pebbles and rocks," she says.


She remembered the encounter a few months ago while brainstorming new NFVA projects, and the idea of creating tacks and magnets evolved. The project, she knew, would require many hours of repetitive piece work, and the NFVA would need help with assembly. By chance, Cape Abilities had recently opened up its new North Falmouth office on Route 28A. Given the organization's mission and its desire to engage with community programs, "it seemed to be the perfect partner," Ilene says. She made the connections, and Cape Abilities quickly came on board.


"All 15 participants at our Falmouth location are eager to participate," the Cape Abilities team wrote in a letter to the cultural council supporting the grant. "Our participants love to create art, and this project ... would allow them to do just that while also integrating with new members of the community." The letter added that a favorite activity of the Cape Abilities participants "is to visit the beach, and they would be able to use these beach trips to source materials for this project."


The project is also becoming a greater community event. The North Falmouth Elementary School PTO is helping to collect stones—“Students can use family trips to the beach to talk about the history of Falmouth pink granite while collecting appropriate rock specimens,” said Shara Bonpietro, the liaison between the PTO and NFVA. Falmouth artist Carrie Fradkin has offered to contribute her creative skills for the packaging designs. And North Falmouth resident Laurie Leitner, who has 40 years' experience in sales, customer joint-development projects, and marketing strategy and planning, has volunteered to help with marketing and distribution. The 300 Committee Land Trust has also offered its support: through its Mock Moraine trails, visitors can walk where the former granite quarries were located.


Eventually, the Cape Cod Rocks! project will also feature organized stone-gathering trips through which students, families, and individual community members can learn about the history of pink granite in the region.


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