Need some artistic influence in your life this fall? Swing by 146 Sayles Street!
Free and open to the public, the newest public art installation on the streets of Woonsocket was created by Riverzedge Arts’ Public Art Studio. Funded by an Urban and Community Forestry Grant provided by the RI Department of Environmental Management, the massive sculpture, titled “Chronicles of the SS Ocean State,” is the culmination of the Woonsocket Tree Project.
“The project aims to raise awareness about the value that Rhode Island’s trees bring to our statewide economy, public health, and sense of community, as well as the threats they face from challenges like climate change and the emerald ash borer, a dangerous invasive pest,” explained Riverzedge Arts Communications and Development Assistant, Geo Darrow.
Awarded in October 2021, the grant launched a meaningful partnership between Woonoscket youth, RIDEM and the RI Tree Council. Teens working on the project were paid age-appropriate hourly wages while learning industry-standard art and design techniques under the expert eye of Riverzedge artistic director Brad Fesmire.
“Our studio wanted to really grab people’s attention. We wanted to build something that would make people stop, think, and care about the trees that are all around them. And just maybe we’ll spark a neighborhood kid’s imagination while we’re at it.”Artistic Director Brad Fesmire
In order to gain a greater level of understanding and appreciation for the environmental issues at play in the sculpture, teenage participants underwent extensive environmental education with RIDEM and the RI Tree Council. Spending roughly two months designing and fabricating the individual pieces that compose the sculpture, resulted in a multi-dimensional installation that includes a ship constructed from a light wooden frame, chicken wire and papier-mâché, and the body of the squid creature made up of carved pieces of styrofoam. Each piece was then painted to suit the scene and assembled on-site.
“While thinking about the massive scale of these issues, I thought of a Kraken. ‘How could something that big be out there? How could you capture it?’ I wanted to make a kind of frozen scene, like we’d captured it in time.”Kay H., age 18
“The project is one of many that Riverzedge Arts undertakes to foster civic engagement in our youth and help them build healthier, more sustainable communities,” Geo expressed. “While we’ve been calling this the Woonsocket Tree Project, we would love for the Tree Project to spread to other municipalities so that we can engage residents’ imaginations across the state.”
In unison with their most recent installation, Riverzedge Arts is also actively operating a project in partnership with RIDEM that’s become known as the Wood Works project, allowing Riverzedge to transform felled Woonsocket trees into sustainable wooden products; including their own retail line of charcuterie boards.
The focus of the sculpture for the teens in our studio was changing the way people see and interact with their environment. Most residents rarely even stop to consider the trees that surround them unless one falls down in a storm or causes other trouble. And our youth wanted to create something that would attract attention from residents and give them a reason to reimagine how they engage with the world around them.Geo Darrow, Riverzedge Arts
“My favorite part was working on the boat, especially the papier-mâché part. I really enjoy the hands-on experience of it. It’s good to see the world in a really creative way. Seeing the creativity in everyday life can create a better environment and a better world.”Sage M, age 16
Youth artists included: Ryan M. (16), Isabella O. (17), Ari B. (15), Sage M. (16), Jay V. (14), Kay H. (18), Chris P. (17), and Levi B. (14). The project was overseen by Artistic Director Brad Fesmire.