NORTH SMITHFIELD – After completion of four year renovation project that converted an outdated elementary school into modern office space, town officials discovered there was one problem with the new Town Hall building at 83 Greene St.
Amid the polished wood floors, brand new furnishings and the updates to everything from technology, to a room that now serves as Town Council chambers, were expansive – and empty – freshly painted walls.
“I was on the building committee that was overseeing the project at Town Hall,” explained Town Council President John Beauregard. “We’re looking around at the building and what jumped out immediately was: yeah, it looks great, but the walls look bare.”
The council president thought those walls could make a great space to display local talent, giving North Smithfield artists publicity and recognition, while adding life to the newly renovated building.
And so, the new North Smithfield Public Art Advisory Committee was born.
Members of the board, appointed in the weeks that followed, include town-based artist Lauren Mosakowski and director Christian de Rezendes. Claire O’Hara took the role as Town Council liaison, and other town residents with diverse backgrounds and an interest in the arts; Kathleen Lewis, Tiffany Nguyen and Jennipher Tripp; rounded out the team.
Over the past seven months, the committee has put a call out to local artists and worked with other groups in town to devise plans for the space.
“We’ve just had so many different committees reach out to us and want to collaborate,” Lewis told NRI NOW this week. “It’s clear there was a real need in town.”
Meanwhile, Lewis notes, “There was nothing but plain walls in this Town Hall.”
Residents are now invited to see the initial products of the Art Committee’s vision for the building at a Town Hall Open House to be held Saturday, Oct. 16 from 1 to 5 p.m.
The event will include a display of finalists from a 150th anniversary art competition held at North Smithfield public schools, along with judging of the creations, with winners to be placed in a time capsule. The North Smithfield Heritage Commission has provided paintings from Heritage Hall, and de Rezendes has searched his project archives from the documentary series Slatersville to find black and white photographs from when the Town Hall building was still a school, including one of Kendall Dean’s first graduating class, and an aerial shot from 1940 showing when the area was mostly farmland.
Paintings by artist Peter Smith and watercolors by Beverly Caya will be unveiled, and the committee will showcase a “Be a Hero,” installation, gathered from children who attended the Great Pumpkin Festival last month that were asked to illustrate their idea of a hero.
“There were tons,” Lewis said of submissions. “We’re going to have a hard time picking 20 to go up.”
Mosakowski, who attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and works creating elaborate window displays at the store front of Anthropologie, recently painted the town of North Smithfield’s emblem in the council chambers.
“She’s just so creative,” said Lewis, noting that visitors will also have the chance to view plans for another wall in the chambers October 16.
Woonsocket-based artist Benny Notorangelo has plans to paint a mural of town buildings on a separate wall and will have sketches of the concept.
Beauregard spotted Notorangelo’s work in the city and got in touch with Woonsocket officials to see if he might be interested in the project.
“He’s a nice, young artist and a very talented guy,” Beauregard said.
Visitors will also get to see art in-the-making at a Plein Air exhibit, with artists gathered by the Blackstone Valley group Arts in the Parks creating historical paintings of buildings in Slatersville.
Light refreshments will also be served at the Open House.
It’s just the start of plans by the art committee to create a vibrant – and changing – space at Town Hall that provides both an opportunity for local artists to gain exposure for their work, and a stimulating experience for visitors. Members have installed a cable with rails to switch out the artwork, including an area specifically dedicated to creations by local students. In addition to fixture paintings, the second floor of the building will showcase a rotating gallery, to be changed quarterly with works returned to the artists.
And they’re hoping the open house will spark additional interest among town-based artists, providing a chance to offer multimedia pieces, such as sculptures and more. Artists are invited to bring something showing their work, including pictures, thumb drives or even a webpage, to be considered for future display.
The committee also has one open seat and welcomes those who might be interested in volunteering to stop in.
Lewis, who works in marketing and raised two children who were always involved in the arts, notes that members do not need any specific background.
“I think, it was really just the love of the arts, and I thought that my experience would be a help to the committee,” she said of here decision to serve.
Beauregard said the committee’s early results have more than met his initial expectations.
“We have a great, great committee,” Beauregard told NRI NOW. “I’m so impressed how hard working and dedicated they are.”
Town Hall, the council president noted, may just be the start, as the board was given specific liberty to take the project in whatever direction they see fit.
“Let’s see how this committee can grow,” he said.