NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Most art inspires, and a unique collaboration between kids and adults at Wilson Park in North Kingstown aims to move visitors to protect the Ocean State’s treasured natural resources.
Just a few yards from where children will frolic this summer at the town’s splash pad installed last year in the “Zeke” Harris Playground, a series of new signs recently made their debut.
Rather than lay down the rules or issue warnings, the signs — large panels set at eye level so younger kids can see — send a message that “NK Kids Care”. That’s the theme of the project conceived by Water Department Director Tim Cranston and executed over the past year by local artists and elementary school students.
Each sign focuses on one area that’s important to the kids — conservation, pollinators, Narragansett Bay and the environment.
Cranston enlisted local schools to contribute student artwork, and the Wickford Art Association held a contest to choose member images that enhance all the information the signs contain.
They include a serene photo of a swan on Bay Ridge, a close-up of a bee pollinating a flower, and paintings of waves crashing on rocks in the bay and a raptor taking flight from its nest.
“NK Kids Care about Narragansett Bay,” one sign reads. “NK kids know that the Narragansett Bay is a big part of what makes Rhode Island special.”
Each sign also offers a set of ‘factoids’ about its topic – Narragansett Bay, for instance, contains 706 billion gallons of water. Kids can learn about what careers to explore, such as marine biologist, and take up an eco-challenge, like finding out why the bay’s eel grass has all but disappeared in recent times.
Fishing Cove Elementary student Victoria McCarthy made her accompanying illustration last year, in fifth grade. Her drawing depicts a marshy wetland near the school that flows into Narragansett Bay.
“We got to do whatever inspired us,” she said. “We were supposed to draw what we saw.”
Now her work will be seen by anyone that visits the playground.
“I feel really excited and honored,” she said.
Debbie Sabo, the North Kingstown Arts Council liaison on the project, produced all of the graphic design elements for the signs.
“These (signs) are manufactured for durability and the weather, they’ll last years and years,” she said. “We added these bits of information and challenges so that when a child or parent comes to view it, they can have things to talk about and take home and make some changes. We tried to make the artwork talk and tell some stories.”
Dave Creta of the Recreation department installed the signs at the end of last month.
In addition to some of the individual drawings and photos on each sign, fifth-graders at Forest Park and Quidnessett elementary schools made collages promoting recycling and natural habitats. The classes of local teachers Maria Masse, Mia Thompson, Danielle Singh, Victoria Carlton, John Garcia and Robin Kasparian took part.
The adult artists involved are Betsy MacDonald, Donna Marie Horan, Gina Campbell and Lori Jeremiah. Some of the child artists are Ryan Kim, McCarthy, Brayden Forte, Alena Holsombach, Leo Chamorro-Hedrick and Lyla Watts.
Horan’s photo of the swan at Bay Ridge, one of her favorite spots, was featured on a plaque about the environment. Horan is impressed by the entire project.
“I think it came out beautiful. I love the kids’ artwork. There’s a nice contrast,” Horan, a juried artist member of the Wickford Art Association, said. “A lot of kids got involved in it. That’s what’s really good.”