New mural makes a splash on East School Street

New mural makes a splash on East School Street

Lincoln-based artists Charles Clear and Bonnie Turner work on “Dog Days of Summer,” a new mural on East School Street, on an overcast day last week. The mural was inspired by the city’s splash pad at nearby World War II Veterans Memorial Park. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

WOONSOCKET – It’s been two years since the city’s splash park first opened at World War II Veterans Memorial Park, and the play area has already become a summer staple for children who love nothing better than to jump in puddles and squirt their siblings with a water sprayer on a hot summer day.

Now, the joy of children running through the spray is immortalized in a new mural titled “Dog Days of Summer” taking shape on two concrete retaining walls along East School Street on the park’s northern side. The mural, painted by Bonnie Lee Turner and Charles Clear of Lincoln, features children running in full splash gear as they enjoy a summer day at the park with their canine friends following along behind.

Last Friday, Turner and Clear could be found putting the finishing touches on the scene in a street bordered mainly by industrial warehouses on the opposite side from the park. Turner said they approached Mayor Lisa Baldelli-Hunt’s office about doing a mural after reading about an ongoing graffiti problem in the city. The two artists have completed public art projects in a number of cities around Rhode Island and find residents are far less likely to vandalize a public space if a work of art already occupies the wall.

“If you do something, it becomes a part of the public consciousness. It’s theirs,” explained Turner.

After showing several possible designs to Baldelli-Hunt, she asked if the pair could do something to incorporate the city’s splash park on the blank concrete walls adjacent to the World War II Veterans Memorial Park. The play area, located in a space that once hosted the “Social Ocean” swimming hole, has been a centerpiece of the park since the city took over ownership from the state in 2016.

Working through 90-degree days the previous week, Turner said she often observed children playing at the nearby park to cool off in the heat. A Woonsocket native, she said the mural has a special significance for her as a positive art project in the city.

“It looks like a blast, and I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid,” she said.

Despite it’s isolated location, the road sees a lot of foot traffic as it connects one city neighborhood to the next, and several passersby stopped to comment or take photos of the mural as the artists worked last Friday. One little girl pointed excitedly at the dogs as she held on to her father’s hand, while Peter Sarrazin, a resident of Rathbun Street, paused to admire the work with a nod of appreciation.

“About time they do something with these walls,” he said. “It definitely spruces up the neighborhood.”

Turner and Clear opened their Lincoln-based studio, The Art of Life, in 1992, and have since completed projects that range from a tropical scene on the walls of a Venezuelan restaurant in Pawtucket to the mosaic that adorns the altar of St. Agatha Church on Joffre Ave. Clear was also part of a group of artists and architects contracted to restore the State House dome in 2016. Turner spent this past summer at an artist residency in Starzach, Germany, and only recently returned to continue her work in Rhode Island.

While the mural features a simple scene with only a gray backdrop behind the running children and pets, Turner said she thinks the piece is more powerful in its simplicity and a fitting subject for the park-side location. Upon hearing Woonsocket High School students recently painted another mural on Cass Ave., she expressed hope more new murals might pop up around the city and prompt visitors from other parts of the state.

“It gets people to want to come for something positive and then if they do, maybe they’ll want to go for lunch in the city,” she said.