The artist of a mural in the old Joel Peckham Center reaches out to the Town and explains how and why the "101 Dalmatians" themed painting was done as part of this month's "Where Am I?" write up.
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CONTACT: Matt Sheley at (401) 712-2221 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WHERE AM I?
MIDDLETOWN, R.I. (OCTOBER 11, 2021) – When we put together this month’s “Where Am I?” we knew we were taking a chance.
Would anyone remember the mural painted years ago in the downstairs hallway of the old Joel Peckham Center, which has been out of use since 2013 when Head Start closed its doors there?
Sure enough, Middletown delivered like it always does – and then some.
Local resident Kelly Conner wrote this week after seeing the picture on her Facebook feed, it brought back memories.
A 1991 graduate of Rogers High School who was in the Graphic Communications program at the Newport County Technical Center, Connor said she painted the mural with the “101 Dalmatians” theme a year later.
At the time, Connor said she was a student at the Hall Institute of Technology in Pawtucket, honing her graphic design skills because there were no jobs in the field.
After a friend mentioned her passion for art to Head Start management, Connor volunteered her time for a couple weeks, painting the “101 Dalmatians” themed mural by the rear ground floor exit of the school at 654 Green End Ave.
The idea, she said, was to help direct the youngsters safely out of the building in case there was a fire. She even signed the painting “STUBBS,” which was a nickname she went by in high school.
“I volunteered for a few weeks and painted the Dalmatians for the fire exit,” Connor said. “For the kids’ bathroom, there were Mickey Mouse and Looney Tunes murals showing the kids how to wash hands and brush teeth properly. Kids love cartoons and adding pictures help show the kids where the fire exit was during fire drills and taught them the proper way to wash hands and brush teeth in the bathroom.”
Today, Connor gets to put her art and creative skills to use every day as a Marketing Coordinator at Morale, Welfare & Recreation at Naval Station Newport. And she still loves public art projects like the one she did at the Peckham School.
“I have pictures of all (the murals) somewhere in my attic. I drew the art all freehand then painted it,” Connor said. “I love art and I think it’s great when schools do murals. I even did a mural of Madonna on the back of stairs when I was in Rogers High School in the Art Department.”
As for the future of the school property itself, it’s being considered by the Town as one of the potential sites for senior affordable housing, although no decisions have been made. In the meantime, the Peckham School built in 1935 isn’t empty, far from it. Rather, it’s being used for storage of office and beach supplies, among other Town equipment.