Words from Warwick – Public Art Project

The team at Wickham Works, a non-profit art organization producing public events, are used to creative problem solving. When the pandemic hit and all their scheduled youth and adult programs had to be cancelled, Melissa Shaw-Smith, Jenny Torino, Hannelore Chambers, and Aliza Schiff put their heads together to come up with a Plan B.

“There had to be a way to continue to reach out to the community,” says Creative Director Shaw-Smith. “We decided to make an exhibition of walk-by-art to be placed in public parks around Warwick.”

Aliza Schiff, a public art consultant, had worked with the community of Parkland, Florida after the school shooting there and knew the therapeutic power of public art. “The written word and art-making are two powerful tools humans have to connect to each other. We knew people were feeling scared and alone and we wanted to help them reconnect,” she says.

The result is Words from Warwick, an exhibition of word-inspired art on display on Railroad Green, Stanley Deming and Lewis Park, August 15th-29th. Each of the eight women artists Wickham Works commissioned responded to the challenge in their own unique way.

Artist Cody Rounds has created a platform for community members’ voices to connect across distance and be exhibited as one. She has asked the public to share words and comments on the recent social upheaval on social media using the hashtag #HearMeHV. She collects and programs them for display on an electronic sign.

Linda Mensch invites us into the sanctuary she has created where people can sit quietly, contemplate, dream, and whisper their wishes or intentions into a stone to place in the shrine.

The hundreds of hand-cut flowers and butterflies made from upcycled plastic in Karen Decher’s word, Pause, reminds us of the many things we love doing which are on hold, she says. But we can also appreciate the value in pausing to contemplate our actions and the beauty around us.

Environmental artist Aurora Robson has made a tree-embracing sculpture from plastic debris, constructed using ultrasonic and injection welding. She searched for words on household packaging that speak to our current preoccupation with health, looking for words and phrases that would offer solace.

The Warwick DPW opened the doors on their storage sheds and invited the artists in. Amongst the treasures Nicole Hixon found is a slice of a 300 year-old tree that until recently stood on Oakland Avenue in Warwick. She will use it as part of her shadow sculpture, Hope.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Amy Lewis Sweetman has been on a campaign to help folks eat well by passing along her knowledge of foraging for local plants. She sourced parts for her recycled metal totem, Discover, an homage to the concept of foraging, from the local area.

Heidi Lanino has chosen the words reveal, truth, fear, breathe, hope, justice, change, and love, and painted them on sheer panels suspended like veils. She invites the audience to walk beneath them, feel their emotional response, and be part of a universal conversation.

Deb Zimmerman is creating a mural, Postcards from Warwick, at Stanley Deming Park. One side of the wall is a giant postcard, Greetings from Warwick. The other displays the handiwork of many local artists who have contributed their own postcards to the mural.

The Youth Task Force and Advisory Board at the Warwick Valley Community Center are making their own artwork––the word Essential picked out in recycled fabric strips printed with the things that are essential in their lives.

This project has been sponsored by the Village of Warwick and Track 7 Postal Center, and made possible by the Town of Warwick Historical Society and the Warwick Valley Community Center.

Wickham Works is a non-profit community maker space based at the Warwick Valley Community Center that works on the assumption that creative placemaking is a core component of a strong community. They produce public art events and workshops for all ages. Wickham Works’ guiding principle is creative reuse––the repurposing of materials to make art––which is embed in all their activities, spreading the message of environmental sustainability by example.

Contact: Melissa Shaw-Smith
(917) 922 0943