Whimsical, creative works all part of ‘Art from Heart’ exhibit


Local artist Danika Wayss uses paint brush strokes to conjure up feelings of nostalgia. In one painting, she depicts a trip to Newport Creamery.

It’s a whimsical scene: in the background a child can be seen ordering ice cream from the storefront window. In the foreground, the viewer sees the unfortunate fate of what had been a former treat. It had fallen on the road, melted ice cream down, cone pointing up.

Fellow artist Josh Walbridge has a knack for seeing everyday, ordinary objects as something a little bit different. He transforms those objects based on that vision.

For example, Walbridge recently dissected a computer, and then reassembled it. Now it looks like a robot.

The 9-year-old added a pair of legs. The old internal hard drive became the robot’s neck and the former computer’s fan is now the new mechanical creature’s head. With a little rewiring, that fan now has green lights, which light up like eyes.

“I just thought of using the computer for the base,” Walbridge explained.

Wayss and Walbridge’s artwork were among about 100 pieces by 40 young artists that were featured in a recent art show at Aspray Boat House in Pawtuxet Park.

Those artists range in age from 3 to early 20s. All of them are students in a local expressive arts program called “Art from the Heart.”

“Art from the Heart” is run by Warwick artist and resident Linda Sciarra, a certified expressive art instructor who teaches out of a studio in her home.

The work on display represented a variety of visual media: from paper and pencil, to acrylic paint, watercolor, sculpture and any object that could be transformed into a nifty piece.

Four-year-old Brett Taylor painted a kite, which was suspended from the ceiling for the show. Artist Grace O’Donnell uses a mixed media collage to ask, “What’s important to you?”

One piece was a student’s homage to her sister’s garden, while another painting was a student’s ode to her grandmother who had recently passed away.

There were sculptures aplenty, as well as several paintings of seascapes.

According to Sciarra, and parents interviewed, the program affords the young artists an expressive outlet they may not otherwise have. “Art from the Heart” began five years ago with eight students. It’s grown since, via word-of-mouth. 

Some of Sciarra’s students explore talents they may not have otherwise discovered, while others learn to cope with loss and difficult experiences through the creative process.

So some of the art these students produce is expressive, some comes out of coping with difficult family situations.

With some of the younger students, Sciarra selects the project and technique, but, as students progress, they get to explore different techniques and visual media.

The students and parents know Sciarra as “Ms. Linda.”

Several paintings were student-produced portraits of Sciarra’s dog, Bentley.

“We just love her,” said Courtney Sangiovanni, whose daughter Sophie had several pieces in the show. “She’s an amazing artist and instructor.”

“It’s a great outlet for the kids,” said Phil O’Donnell, whose children, Grace and Jack, are both students in the program. “My kids have been in it for a few years now.”

O’Donnell, like many in the program, learned about “Art from the Heart” through word-of-mouth.

Some students, like Walbridge, show themselves to be both artistically and mechanically inclined. With Sciarra’s guidance, Walbridge has been recycling materials and making art pieces out of them for several years.

He assembled an airplane using papier-mâché and the leftover parts from a previously damaged remote controlled plane. In another sculpture, he made a beach and lighthouse scene, using a flashlight and other found objects. And, yes, the lighthouse lights up.

Those interested in registering their children for the next “Art from the Heart” session and to inquire about cost can contact Linda Sciarra at klsciarra@cox.net. Starting in September, there are five sessions; each runs for six weeks throughout the school year.


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