At Greystone, this is more than a summertime art class

At Greystone, this is more than a summertime art class

Todd Melucci, who is stocked with a large supply of paint, says he’s proud of the enthusiasm he finds in his young artists. Working alongside “M. Todd” is Dylan Diomandes. (Breeze photos by Marcia green)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Thursday mornings this summer, the three dozen campers attending Kids Klub at Greystone Elementary School can’t wait for art class, camp leaders say.

It’s a special time to kick back and be messy – a creative break on a hot summer day.

But mostly, the kids just can’t wait to see their teacher, Todd Melucci.

Sure they love the projects he brings –quahog shells to paint, treasure chests to decorate – but it’s the chats they have with him about his cerebral palsy that may be the lasting lesson.

“They call me Mr. Todd,” Melucci says, “and they’re so excited to see me. It makes me feel proud.”

Melucci, 43, grew up in Lincoln and now lives in Smithfield. He says he’s a landscape artist who takes art classes with United Cerebral Palsy of Rhode Island, based in Pawtucket.

“I’m very independent, and I wanted to help other kids out,” he says of his lesson planning for the youngsters. “Every week I think up a new project.”

Last week, about 15 youngsters gathered around a table with brushes and cups filled with varied paint colors to transform a small, wooden plaque into a wall hanging.

Melucci says the kids bring that unabashed frankness to the questions they ask him about his speech, which requires them to listen closely, and the motor skill impairment he exhibits.

“Every kid is curious, which is normal,” he said. “I’m glad it’s educational for them not only to learn how to paint but about a person with disabilities.”

Kids Klub Executive Director Alicia Gloria agreed. “The kids have questions, and he’s very open to them. It gives them a different outlook on disabilities.”

Mary Ann Shallcross Smith, who founded Kids Klub 42 years ago, says she heard about Melucci’s interest in working with elementary-school-aged kids from a close friend while they were walking mornings in Lincoln Woods.

Shallcross Smith followed up with a phone call, and Melucci, who said he’d have no problem answering questions about his disability, was on board within weeks.

“It’s been beautiful,” Shallcross Smith says of the experience.

She credits the arrangement to “being open to ideas as they flow, and this flow has been a success.”

Above, Kylyn Jones, left, and Madyson Curd concentrate on their art projects.
Rome Jones shows his final creation, a plaque with his initial.