Johanna Wislocki Wilkinson McKenzie
Johanna Wislocki Wilkinson McKenzie came to Little Compton, around 1938 when her parents, both doctors practicing in Boston, Massachusetts, searched for a summer retreat to escape to that did not have the travel hassles attached to Cape Cod. Her parents found a house to call home on Round Pond Road and this is where Johanna grew up swimming at Tappen’s Beach and visiting West Island. After her mother, Florence Clothier Wislocki, moved permanently to Little Compton in the early 1960s, Johanna purchased her own property, a barn on Sakonnet Point that she converted into a summer home.
As a young woman, Johanna graduated from the University of Vermont and then promptly travelled to Geneva, Switzerland, where she completed a master’s degree at the Institut Des Hautes Etudes Internationales. On returning to the United States, she took a job working as an editor for the Harvard University Press. During the 1970s, she worked for nine years in a position as Special Assistant to the Director of Residential Care at a large institution for the developmentally disabled. At that same time, she served on their Board of Directors, that post lasted for over ten years.
In 1982, after being widowed and having re-married, she converted her summer house into a year-round home and began a career in the arts. She worked first at Nonquit Pottery, producing hand-formed pieces featuring animals. With her art interests growing she enrolled in courses at the Rhode Island School of Design and the Newport Art Museum, she also took private classes, and earned and participated in a residency in oil painting at the Vermont Studio School. Since the 1990s she has specialized in regional oil paintings that feature scenery local to her world of coastal Southern New England.
In the early 1990s Johanna ran for and was elected to the Town Council. Her political legacy continues on today. Amongst her largest achievements were the removal of underground oil storage tanks to ensure a safe drinking water supply for Little Compton (this was accomplished two years before the state of Rhode Island required their removal); supporteing the Truesdale Family preservation of Goosewing Beach by its sale to the Nature Conservancy and creating a binding contract with the Little Compton Community Center to use the former Little Compton Grange as its home.
Throughout her life, Johanna has been active in community projects. In the ‘80s she volunteered with Rhode Island Project AIDS and represented Rhode Island in Washington DC at the viewing of the AIDS quilt when she read names of those lost to the disease. In the ‘90s, she focused on the town, serving on the Town Council. In the early 2000s, she continued to encourage young artists. After receiving a grant from the Timberland Boot Company for 150 pairs of “Tims” (the classic Timberland boot) sized for students in the program, she led the 02863 Boot Project in Central Falls, RI. This project engaged high school students in the arts through designing and painting their own boots. They were mentored by twelve professional Rhode Island artists, who helped raise money for the students’ college scholarships by auctioning their boots off at a celebration at Roger Williams University. This event raised over $17,000 to start the scholarship for graduating seniors matriculating to college. Additional fundraising allowed the program to run through 2019.
At the time of this writing, now the COVID Pandemic, Johanna has been painting miniature scenes on shells as inspirational gifts for the frontline medical staff at Newport and Rhode Island Hospitals. Since March 2020, she has provided over 300 shells to these caregivers.
Johanna has been honored for her artwork by numerous organizations including the Naval War College Museum, the Catherine Anne Lorillard Art Club (Gold medal awardee), Newport Art Museum, and the Providence Art Club. In the early 2000s, she added a gallery, The Mollynook Studio, onto her home where she continues to produce and sell her art.
Johanna McKenzie and Dora Atwater Millikin