Light spectacles, giant snowflakes, and decorated trees are a usual sight, but this year, Stonington’s winter display will be anything but typical. Premiering this year at the town dock, you’ll find the Lobster Trap Tree: a creative presentation that celebrates the area’s fishing industry, talented artists, local businesses, and community members, while simultaneously ringing in the holidays.
The Lobster Trap Tree is exactly what it sounds like: a tree-shaped constructed of green wire lobster traps decorated with painted buoys. The display is the brainchild of Lisa Konicki, president of the Westerly-based Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce (OCCC), which delivers and runs programs, services, and events in and beyond Westerly. She was inspired by a lobster trap tree she saw on a visit to Gloucester, MA. Konicki says, “When I saw it, the first thought in the back of my head was, why doesn’t Stonington have this? We’re known for our lobster, seafood, and fishing.”
Back at her desk, Konicki got busy with the goal of supplying buoys to be sponsored and decorated. The OCCC quickly surpassed their goal of having 325 buoys claimed. “Momentum has been building since the spring when we announced it,” Konicki says, and it’s clear why. Not only does the Lobster Trap Tree represent the area’s fishing industry, but it “ties together so many aspects of the community: children, professional artists, amateur artists, business, non-profits, and historical landmarks in town.” In addition, the exhibit allows local individuals to represent their own stories in a collective work.
While other lobster trap trees exist, Stonington’s is unique in that it features buoys painted specifically for the atypical tennenbaum. Those who sponsored a buoy had the option of channeling their inner Picasso or having one of the OCCC’s selected professional artists paint it. These local artists, coming from Rhode Island or Connecticut, held workshops with children to paint 40 buoys while decorating those they were given. Artist Kristin Shaffer was thrilled to be part of the project. A hairdresser and talented painter, Shaffer was able to express the sponsors’ wishes with her art. “One of my favorite buoys was a sweet memorial to a beautiful family in the Borough,” she recalls, exemplifying how the architectural display is more than just art, but rather an anthology of personal stories.
Stonington’s Lobster Trap Tree lights up on November 27, and folks are encouraged to visit, take photos, and shop around in the area. Its website (LobsterTrapTree.com) offers additional information, and donations can be made via checks payable to OCCC and sent to 1 Chamber Way, Westerly, RI 02891 which help support the project and, as Konicki notes, “what we hope will become an annual tradition.”
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