“It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were having discussions of the future of this building,” Mayor Scott Avedisian said Tuesday morning as he stood in the newly reconstructed lower level of the Warwick Museum of Art (WMOA). “There has been a dramatic turnaround in a short period of time. It’s fantastic and that’s due to the great board of volunteers that has been put together. You have taken a tired entity and turned it into a really vibrant, energetic force for the arts here in the city of Warwick.”
Avedisian, Ward 1 Councilman Steven Colantuono and members of the WMOA board gathered to celebrate the ribbon cutting ceremony for the facility’s new art classroom, kitchen and entry foyer.
Improvements to the WMOA, built as the Kentish Artillery Armory, were made possible through a $57,000 Champlin Foundations grant the WMOA received six months ago. The project was completed on time and on budget.
During the celebration, board member Pam Unwin-Barkley, who teaches foundational studies at the Rhode Island School of Design and is also an interior designer, served as the project manager for the building’s modifications. She praised contractor Sean Webster and the crew at Vine Street Studio for all their assistance.
But, they rejoiced for yet another reason; to view art created by Warwick children.
Eighty-two students from 11 local schools and a handful of home-schooled children recently participated in an art contest through the WMOA and each received a certificate of achievement and a letter inviting them to a family-friendly 100th birthday event and open house the WMOA is hosting Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The children and their families are encouraged to stop by to sample art workshops, see an Improv comedy performance, enjoy a piece of birthday cake, have their faces painted and get a brochure/application for summer art camp, which starts June 25 and runs through Aug. 17. Classes are offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for children ages 6 through 12.
“One of our missions is working more with the local students and this new classroom is going to be a great step in that direction,” said Board President Michelle Place Gleason. “It’s such a relief to have such a clean, bright space for students to learn and create.”
Other board members, including Joseph Hozempa and Deb Mercer, feel the same. While Hozempa said he thinks it’s great to be part of an organization that focuses on giving children a place to be creative, Mercer was in awe of the art.
“It’s overwhelming in a fantastic way because there’s so much color and creativity here,” she said. “I could never pick a favorite. It puts you in a good mood to come in this room.”
Program director Patty Martucci agrees. She said showcasing the children’s work helps them build confidence in their artistic skills and possibly encourages them to pursue art as a potential career later in life.
“They see art as something they can do for the rest of their lives,” Martucci said. “ The colors are so vibrant and lively. I can’t get over the talent.”
Mercer is hopeful Saturday’s event is well attended because she is excited for people to see the changes the WMOA has made for the better. She also is looking forward to meeting the children who entered the art contest.
“It all started with a little ripple of enthusiasm that’s just grown,” she said.
Winners of the contest are first place victor August Allaire, a third grader at Hoxsie, who earned one free week at WMOA’s summer art camp, which is at least a $200 value; second place winner Jillian Higgins, a sixth grader at Park, who won seven two-hour sessions at the summer camp, a value of at least $100; as well as four children who received honorable mentions, such as Daniel Bergeron, a third grader at Oakland Beach; Molly Daniels, a first grader from Scott; Jacey Foshey, a fifth grader from Randall Holden; and Jordan Petrucci, a fifth grader from Holliman. Each of them received a $25 gift certificate to A.C. Moore.
In addition to Hoxsie, students from Park, Oakland Beach, Scott, Randall Holden, Holliman, Greenwood, Lippitt, Norwood, J.B. Francis and Warwick Neck all took part in the competition.
The museum is located in the historic Kentish Artillery Armory at 3259 Post Road in Apponaug Village. For more information about the WMOA, or to find out how to register for art camp, visit warwickmuseum.org.