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After major renovations in January, Caleb & Broad is getting a brand new look. The restaurant’s interior transformation includes a 22 ft. mural celebrating Rhode Island created by local artist Ry Smith. Smith has been hard at work on the piece – his first large-scale mural – since January 31st and is on track to finish it this week. We had a chance to catch up with Ry to learn more about the project, his inspirations and what he loves most about living in Newport.
WUN: Can you share a bit about your background. Have you always been an artist?
Ry: I’ve been sketching and creating art since I was a kid growing up on Long Island/Fire Island. I took a bunch of art classes in high school (photography, cartooning, AP Art History), and studied Art History at URI. I started marketing myself and doing art shows in my early 20s throughout Brooklyn, Long Island and The Hamptons. When I moved to Newport, I began displaying pieces for the Backyard Summer Art Series in conjunction with Newport Art House. I also do art direction for the monthly storytelling symposium Tell Newport, as well as all the marketing and art design for Stoneacre Brasserie (where I also manage the bar program and front-of-house restaurant staff). For a time I had an art business called Seacreature with my partner Sarah Shoen where we created swag (shirts, tote bags, prints, etc) based on my designs combined with her stitching expertise. My preferred medium is simply blank ink, and any color design is based in oil pastels. I also make homemade magnets cut by hand and collages based on my pre-existing line work. Only lately have I dabbled in tattoo design, logos, and now large-scale murals.
WUN: What types of art or artists do you like best or feel most inspired by?
Ry: The types of artists I like are always those who can blend pop culture with a bit of surrealism. I travel the world in search of inspirational street art, as it’s something I aspire to. Muralists such as Gleo, Phlegm, Kanaet and Saner Edgar stop me in my tracks. Tattoo artists David Peyote and Filipa Vargas (both of whom have done work for me) are daily doses of inspiration. On a more classical level, Hieronymous Bosch, Salvador Dali, Charley Harper and Vasily Kandinsky are my heroes.
WUN: Can you tell us a little bit about the mural project at C&B – what inspired it and what is your process?
Ry: For Caleb & Broad, owner Rich Willis and Melissa Breen Moniz/Rebecca Small (2Hands Studio) were looking for a pop culture tribute to all things Rhode Island – films references, landmarks, historical figures and nautical nuances. Since my style lends well to a collage-type structure, I tried to touch on all the notable characters of our rich existence. I’ve never worked on anything large-scale beyond the scope of a piece of computer paper, so I used an old school overhead projector (whaddup middle school!) to map out and trace onto a 7′ x 21′ wall. And because I’m no painter, I did the entire thing using paint markers–no brushes were harmed in the creation of this mural.
WUN: How long have you lived in Newport?
Ry: I’ve lived in Newport for seven years now.
WUN: What do you like best about living in Newport – favorite places to go and things to do?
The thing I like best about Newport is the vibrant community vibe. Everyone is here to root everyone else on. This city blends the past, present and future better than any place I’ve ever lived. It’s got a small-town aura with international influence at any time of the year. Living next to the beach while having places like Providence, Boston, NYC and Portland within arms reach to frequent is geographically dreamy. The best day in Newport (summer edition) includes a morning & evening dip at Rejects Beach, a bike ride around Ocean Drive, oysters at Benjamin’s, margaritas on the Perro Salado patio, Empire’s dark roast coffee, frisbee at Rovensky Park, sunning like an iguana on the rocks at Ballard Park, shared plates for dinner at TSK and Fernet Branca anywhere.