Town Council approves Georgiaville Pond mural

Town Council approves Georgiaville Pond mural

The Georgiaville Pond mural will occupy three of five retaining wall panels, giving artist Heidi Born and community groups behind the project the option to expand in the future. The underwater landscape, shown above, shows the wildlife found at the Smithfield beach.

SMITHFIELD - A retaining wall at Georgiaville Pond will soon be home to a 30-foot mural created at the hands of students and residents as a way to beautify the recreational area and promote environmental education.

Sunfish, rainbow trout, eels and microorganisms will be among the creatures represented in the underwater-themed piece created by configuring 150 ceramic tiles decorated over the past few months.

The piece was commissioned by the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council and Bryant University, and designed by artist Heidi Born, a Rhode Island School of Design graduate with a passion for community art who is currently working to glaze the pieces.

In collaboration with the Smithfield Conservation Commission, students at Bryant, Raymond La Perche Elementary School and the Smithfield YMCA, as well as area residents, have all contributed to the painting of the 6-by-6-inch tiles.

The Town Council granted the project approval at a meeting last week. Because of the ongoing dam repair work at the site, Bryant sophomore Peter Dixon told officials, the mural is expected to be installed in the fall with help from the town's Parks and Recreation Department.

The project that originated in Bryant professor Christopher Ratcliffe's management classes is sponsored by Bryant, Navigant Credit Union and Fidelity Investments, and is estimated to cost approximately $3,500. Fundraising is ongoing.

Before approval was granted, officials and residents discussed the vandalism and need for surveillance in the area.

"Public art can be quite controversial," resident Frank O'Connell said to officials. "Public art in a place without surveillance is inviting more vandalism."

Dixon said the WRWC plans to leave a fund with the town to help with maintenance costs. Town Manager Dennis Finlay said he will also research the scope and cost of installing security cameras the way he did at Deerfield Park.

Lisa Aurecchia, WRWC director of programs, later told The Valley Breeze & Observer that the mural itself should deter vandalism as similar projects have done successfully in other areas of the state, including Providence.

"We feel like nothing is perfect, but it definitely has helped deter graffiti," Aurecchia said.

A site of heavy graffiti that was replaced by a painted mural in Providence has remained tag-free, she said, while the wall right next to it still gets vandalized. A blank slate is more inviting, she said.

"Often there's a respect," she said. "People tend to respect other people's work."

If the mural is vandalized, Aurecchia said paint would be able to be power washed off the tiles. The WRWC also has a vested interest in keeping the site beautiful, she said.

"We will not leave Smithfield in the lurch if there are issues," she said. "We want to make sure it's a success."

This sketch of underwater life found at Georgiaville Pond in Smithfield shows how separate tiles will come together to form a 30-foot mural on the beach's retaining wall, thanks to a project by the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council and Bryant University. Plans were approved last week by the Town Council.