Son carries on legacy of art – and childhood fun – with repainting of giant ‘clubhouse’ in Burrillville

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BURRILLVILLE – The structure has sat in the back yard at Judy Lopez’s Grove Street home for some 40 years, offering generations of local kids a unique place to play.

The roughly 20-foot-wide and 15-foot-high fiberglass water tank was painted by Burrillville-based artist Will Turner decades ago, and turned into a, “club cabin,” by Lopez and her then husband. Lopez went on to create something of an unofficial playground in the area surrounding the structure, adding teeter-totters and the slide that once sat beside the Harrisville Dam.

“It’s huge,” Lopez said of the tank. “All the kids throughout the neighborhood have always gone back there to play in this clubhouse.”

Lopez, who has turned family fun into a profession through her role as the manager of nearby Spring Lake Beach, noted that former Town Councilman Robert Bishop even towed the structure to the Assembly Theatre one year for the Burrillville Arts & Crafts Festival.

But over the past four decades, the colorful clowns Turner painted on the clubhouse had grown dull.

“It was really faded,” said Lopez. “People were asking if we were going to get it painted.”

Lopez said several people had offered to repaint the markings, designed by an artist who died some 30 years ago, before she got the idea to contact Turner’s son, also a well-known local talent.

Tim Turner, the owner of Turner Ink Tattoo Studio in Harrisville, is also a portrait artist and chainsaw wood carver.

” People tell me he’s very very talented. Generations of that family have always been artists,” Lopez said.

And she says Tim not only jumped at the opportunity to replicate and refresh his father’s work – he offered to do so for free.

“I didn’t know if he would even do it, and he said, ‘I’ve been waiting for you to ask me'” Lopez said.

Tim Turner already has spent two days on the project, reanimating the first two clowns, and is expected to paint for two more.  His generous work will help to ensure that the clubhouse, a beacon of fun in the quiet neighborhood, will spark the imaginations of young Grove Street residents for years to come.

Lopez said that many parents have expressed concern about their kids trespassing, but she doesn’t mind having children in her yard.

“All the kids play over there,” she said. “It’s not a local park – but so what.”

The second Turner artist to paint the tank has put his initials right next to the “W.T.” painted by his dad 40 years ago. And he told Lopez that in another 40 years, the portable structure could very well be repainted by his daughter, who is also an artist.

“It was cute that the second generation went on to do that,” Lopez said of the work. “What an awesome thing.”

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