A visit to the Stonington Lobster Trap tree is a magical experience and provides unique photo opportunities. The architectural masterpiece is situated on a grassy area at the Stonington, Connecticut town dock, paying homage to the town’s renowned fishing industry. Whether you view this spectacle during the day or at night, the beautiful landmark provides an eclectic buoy exhibit that is a flawless balance between stunning professionally painted works and those created by local children.
The Stonington Lobster Trap Tree will be on display for 7 weeks beginning November 26, 2022, Small Business Saturday, at 4:30pm. Please come and visit with your family and friends. The art installation will be in place through January 15, 2023 and there is convenient parking in the lot at the Stonington Town Dock. The Stonington Lobster Trap Tree is the perfect selfie spot, makes a terrific backdrop for your family holiday cards, and is a great excuse to come and visit beautiful Stonington Borough. After you’ve seen the tree, we encourage you to explore the eclectic shops and outstanding restaurants in this quintessential shoreline village. The tree will be lit until 9:30PM each night so that it's equally as beautiful in the evening as it is during the day.
Local youth were invited to join the fun and explore the wonder of art at community workshops. Using the people, places, events, traditions and history of the town of Stonington as inspiration, youth painted their own masterpieces to be included on the Stonington Lobster Trap Tree. With the encouraging guidance of Stonington artists, these workshops are both fun and educational. 40 Stonington children/families participated at no charge this year. Their buoys become their property when the tree is dismantled.
2022 Tree Stats
To learn more about Stonington Borough businesses and events, please visit The Stonington Borough Merchant's Association website.
About the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce
The mission of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce is to serve the interests of member businesses and enhance their success while providing community leadership to ensure balanced economic advancement and a high quality of life. We champion our communities' economic and cultural vitality through advocacy, education and networking. The word “community” is in our name for a reason and refers to the two state region we serve. We value the arts as a vital part of the local economy and recognize the enriching affect they have on the lives of local residents. This project, like many others we produce, brings together residents, businesses and the arts community for a shared benefit. The OCCC also produces the Virtu Art Festival each summer in Wilcox Park and the Fusion bodypainting event at the Velvet Mill in Stonington each fall. We produce the annual River Glow event in Stonington, on the Pawcatuck River, each August. To learn more about all our events and activities visit oceanchamber.org
About the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation
The OCCF is the charitable arm of the OCCC and is accepting donations to underwrite buoy workshops for local children. Donations cover purchase of buoys, paint, space rental and pay for artist supervision and clear coating. The OCCF also produces educational heirloom publications that raise money for local charities including the Pop Up Book of Stonington and the Pop Up Book of Westerly. We produce the annual Pawcatuck River Duck Race in April which raises funds for over 50 local schools and charities. We also produce the ATHENA leadership award program and provide thousands of dollars in scholarship funds to local youth each year.
Please don’t touch the buoys or tree. Sometimes the tree is crowded and people don’t see the many signs at night. We have several in place and make regular announcements but still find ourselves having to regularly remind guests. We are not saying it to embarrass anyone. We are saying it to protect the art, which is somebody’s property. Art is meant to be seen and not touched; however, often people are excited about the brilliant buoys and they forget. We get it! There is also an understandable desire to want to see the other side of the work. However, spinning buoys on metal traps causes serious scratches and damages to the art. We know that visitors are curious about the artistic process and want to explore further, but the very foundation that displays this outdoor exhibit makes the works especially vulnerable. Buoys with embellishments such as shells, sea glass and stones can appear to be strong, but the cold elements make them brittle and inherently more fragile. Because our buoys are intriguing and colorful, they may seem fun and interactive, especially to those who have the experience of exploration-themed displays in science centers. But these are not toys. They were created with great care over many, many hours as a labor of love for the visual enjoyment of all. Just as you would never touch a painting hanging on the wall of an indoor museum, please do not touch the buoys at this outdoor exhibition. The invisible traces left behind by the brushing of finger tips can carry sweat, oils and acids, all of which may transfer to the artwork. A clear coating has been applied to painted buoys to create a high gloss look, add UV protection from the sun, and to provide environmental physical protection, but repeated touching wears down this protective coating- and it can still scratch. We have 2,000 people a day that visit the tree which is on display for 8 weeks. If everyone spun or touched the buoys the results would be catastrophic. For all the reasons stated above, PLEASE respect the art work. It is the responsibility of adults to control children in their company and keep pets far away from the art. Do not let a pet get close or “lift a leg” on a child’s buoy! (row 1 is all kids’ work). It has happened and it’s not ok. The tree is a joyful place with friendly volunteer docents on duty monitoring and taking photos at night. We never want this community exhibit to have “guards” or a velvet rope or fence around it. We simply need cooperation to insure that it can continue to be enjoyed by all without causing damages to the works. Thank you so much for your cooperation.
GOALS OF THE STONINGTON LOBSTER TRAP TREE
● Promotes tourism and increased visitation to the Town of Stonington, specifically the borough business district by creating a 6 week long attraction.
● Promotes the talents of over 100 participating artists from the 2-state region who are creating buoys for display on the tree and provides a collaborative project for them to blend their unique styles. Provides a networking forum for the region’s artists to meet one another and cross promote.
● Encourages young artists by engaging local children and families in the artistic process at community workshops where all supplies are provided. This is a safe, fun family activity.
● Enhances the holiday season by “buoying” the spirits of residents after a couple difficult years with COVID.
● Strengthens the distinctive character of the community by highlighting the town docks and our seafood industry.
● Sustainable project- This has become an annual tradition and continues to grow in popularity. The lobster traps are stored and recycled. Buoys could be made each year by artists and families and some could be recycled.
● Contributes to Connecticut’s cultural assets as a unique art installation that is an internationally recognized landmark attraction.
● Highlights the culture and history of our community by depicting town landmarks and community celebrations in some of the art work. Incorporates the history of the commercial fishing industry and the town itself in some of the artistic programming.
● Promotes collaboration between the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce and some of its members including artists, the Stonington Borough Merchants Association, LaGrua Center and The Stonington COMO which will be hosting artistic workshops for families.
FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions
Frequently Asked Questions:
How long has this tradition been going on?
2021 was our first ever Stonington Lobster Trap Tree.
Where did the idea come from?
There are more than 15 lobster trap trees all over New England including Rockport Maine, Gloucester Mass, and Block Island RI. Each reflects the unique character of that community and ranges in size and project scope. Some trees have been created for over 20 years in these communities while other towns are just joining the fun, such as Stonington. Lisa Konicki, President of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, saw the Gloucester Mass. tree in January 2020 and was awe struck by the incredible structure. It was beautifully decorated entirely with buoys painted by local children. She knew immediately that the OCCC would undertake a similar initiative in the near future and had hoped to do so in 2020. Covid put those thoughts on hold that year but we were excited to be bringing this project to fruition in 2021.
What makes this Stonington, Connecticut tree unique?
This is the only Lobster Trap Tree that features the gorgeous works of over 100 professional artists as part of the display. This is an art installation as well as a collaborative community project that engages families. Professional artists worked alongside local children at workshops in the fall and helped them create special buoys to represent their talents and ideas. Together, the collection of artist's and children's buoys created a beautiful tapestry of color. In 2021, the BBC News named our tree "one of the 18 most amazing trees in the world."
How did the artists get involved?
While efforts were made to include as many Stonington artists as possible, committee outreach to gifted artists extended far beyond the town borders. Supporters from across two states have graciously and enthusiastically joined us in this endeavor. By welcoming many diverse perspectives and talents, we have truly enriched the project while simultaneously fostering Stonington ambassadors across an extensive geographic area. We welcome them. We thank them. And we applaud their originality. Their collective works will proudly grace the Stonington Lobster Trap Tree and this installation enhances the long-standing, traditional holiday rituals in the borough.
Is this a fundraiser?
The Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce has incurred significant up-front costs to create this magical sculpture the first year. The OCCC purchased 378 lobster traps (used ones would not be as safe structurally), 360 buoys, strings of lights, tie wraps and paint & brushes. There were costs to apply for event permits and insurance. There were costs associated with the creation of new website and the insurance policy to protect the organization against liability. There will be costs for electricity, event programs, marketing, security, brochure printing, mileage and more.
In 2021 we bought 378 traps and over $3,000 worth of lights. Our gorgeous mahogany door cost $3,200 and that's after a generous discount by A.B. Powell + Associates. We had to buy a $6,200, 40 cubic foot container to store the 378 traps at the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce. Most of the buoys were driven to the artists all over CT and RI, and picked up when the art was complete, so there were mileage costs. There were expenses for signage to recognize sponsors, and inform the public to “please do not touch the tree or buoys” along with new buoys, marketing, brochure printing, buoy delivery, and permits. We paid to rent the COMO and La Grua for the workshops and paid a mere $500 to the COMO to create the beautiful anchor, which has a value well over $3,000. Their generosity was incredible. We bought a terrific, professional grade, Sandy Claws lobster costume. Thankfully, clear coating of the buoys was donated by Crotty and Sons and the nautical rope was donated by Mystic Knotwork. Thanks to over 1,000 hours of donated labor and generous support of donations at the tree, puzzle & ornament sales, auction monies the project finished in the black.
We will work hard to rally community support, secure donations and use the funds from the buoy auction to help off set annual expenses. Once the project reached the financial “break even” point we purchased more lights for the inside of the tree and 60 more traps, more tie wraps. We installed video cameras to monitor the project as well.
We need to be sustainable so the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit organization, can recuperate some of its investment of manpower and support our scholarship program, free movies in Stonington Borough and other community programming.
What type of Volunteer Opportunities exist?
We need help throughout the year delivering buoys to artists and picking them up. We need volunteers to transport traps from Westerly to Stonington and help set-up the tree. Once the exhibit opens, we need docents to greet the public, answer questions, take photos and maintain an orderly line when necessary.
How can I get involved as a volunteer or sponsor?
Volunteers follow this link: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c094cafae2ca7fbcf8-stonington
Contact Lisa Konicki via
How do I donate to support the project and is it tax deductible?
Send your check payable to OCCC, 1 Chamber Way, Westerly, RI 02891.
Corporate sponsorships payable to the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce are considered a marketing investment and are therefore considered an ordinary business expense. They are not a charitable donation. However, to make a donation that is 100% tax deductible as a charitable contribution, donate to the Ocean Community Chamber Foundation and your money will be used to support the artists workshops with local children. Funds will cover the buoys, paints, brushes, rope and clear coating.
Are the painted buoys for sale?
The beautiful buoys painted by professional artists from the 2-state region, and featured in the “Artists Buoys” section of this site are displayed on the tree and then available for auction February 4, 2023 at St. Mary's Church. An online bidding site (for the artist buoys) will be set-up . The buoys displayed in the “Sponsors Buoys” section and the “Community Member Buoys” are not for sale. They will also displayed on the tree and then they become the property of those sponsors or community members noted in the images.
How do I get to have a buoy on the tree?
Selected artists have been invited by the Committee to paint buoys that will be part of this art installation. If you are a professional artist and wish to be considered, please contact Lisa Konicki at 401-596-7761 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There is no cost to those artists that are invited and we supply the buoy. If you are a member of the local community, or a local business who would like to have a buoy on the tree, sponsor at $200 for ownership of 1 buoy. You may either paint the buoy yourself, have it painted by a friend, or we can get it painted for you by one of our participating artists, at no additional cost to you. When the tree comes down, you can pick up your buoy and keep it as a reminder of the special Stonington Lobster Trap Tree.
What is displayed on the top of the tree?
The Stonington COMO built a five foot anchor for the tree topper utilizing the COMO Makerspace's Glowforge laser cutter. The anchor was cut into smaller pieces and connected using dovetail joints and brace plates behind the joints for added stability. They made two of the five foot anchors, which gives the anchor added dimension. The two sides of the anchor were connected with one inch dowels. It was sealed and finished for outdoor use. They used LED light strips to light it up. An anchor was selected by the Lobster Trap Tree Committee because it is part of the Town of Stonington’s official logo and also part of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce logo.
Are dogs allowed at the tree?
Yes, if they are on a leash at all times. Please clean up after your pet and always keep a safe distance from other dogs and from people, as not everyone is comfortable with animals.
Is the tree wheelchair accessible?
Yes, and there is a handicapped parking space near the tree.
Matt Beaudoin - Mystic Knotwork
Jill Beaudoin - Mystic Knotwork
Jessica Cerullo - Social Practice Artist
Danielle Chesebrough - Town of Stonington
Dan Crotty - Crotty & Sons Body Works
Tom Curioso - Stonington Public Works Dept.
Beth D'Amato - Dime Bank
Maria DiMaggio - Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce
Nico DiMaggio - resident
Scott Erricson - E2 Engineers
Tom Fabian - resident
Andrew Field - Noah’s Restaurant
Marlena Freitas - Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce Intern
Beth Frenette - Washington Trust Co.
Jeff Frenette - Coldwell Banker Cahoon
Wendy Gencarelli - Artist
Shannon Haeseler - Jewett City Savings Bank
Jeff Hoadley - Stonington Borough Fire Department
Lisa Konicki -Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce
Jillian Lauren - Artist
Curtis Lutyen - Ritacco Electric
Alex Majewski - Ritacco Electric
Aaron Marketos -Sign Guy and Sons
Barbara McKrell - Stonington Public Works Dept.
Bruce Morrow -Valenti Subaru
Bruce Powell - AB Powell Woodworks
Maria Pucci - Bella Vita Salon
Frank Ritacco - Ritacco Electric
Victoria Schwartz - Artist
Kristin Shaffer - Artist
Teddy Splaine - Ritacco Electric
Barbara Stillman - Indulge Coffee and Sandwiches
Jeanette Morrone Vertentes - Artist
Victoria Witte - Stonington COMO