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By Tom Leyden

Photos By: Rick Bern Photography

How did it all start?

Only five words, but a huge question surrounding the journey of Domenic Esposito, a sculptor and longtime Westwood resident who made national headlines in 2018 thanks to his powerful works of art – and the message behind them.

We'll get to the headlines, but first, the impetus.

Esposito is a parishioner at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church. In 2017, he was approached by Fr. Stephen Linehan and asked to address the congregation about the Archbishop’s Annual Appeal. Linehan frequently called on his parishioners to personalize the appeal and Esposito did some homework before making his fundraising pitch.

“I looked up all these services the Archdiocese offers,” said Esposito. “One was the recovery service Fr. Joe White offers in the west end in Boston. I'd heard about it.”

Domenic had heard about Fr. Joe’s program because he had tried to get his brother, Danny, admitted. Danny has battled substance use disorder for more than a decade and the fight is personal to the Esposito family. During his pitch, Domenic conveyed that personal connection to the congregation.

“After the speech, we had coffee and doughnuts in the church basement,” said Esposito. “I got to meet some of the parishioners and I was hearing things like, ‘You know, my son or daughter is dealing with the same thing,’ or ‘My grandson - he's been living in this sober home.’

“I didn’t realize it was such a widespread problem, even in a suburban town like Westwood,” said Esposito. “That got me thinking about how I can use my art to be a voice – to get help! I had people at the church telling me they had to pay for their grandson’s recovery and trust me, this is expensive. You can’t write a $200,000 check and say, ‘Go save my grandson’s life.’ It doesn’t work that way. It’s a very long process. So, that got me this anger.”

Through the anger came great inspiration. Domenic, who spent decades in finance, now dedicated his life to creating disruptive art. That dedication gave birth to The Opioid Spoon Project.

“As an artist, I think in a lot of what you do, 90% of it is the idea,” said Esposito. “10% is the execution, but 90% is the idea. So that was, to me, the big revelation. This is prevalent. I'm not the only one. Something needs to happen. I've always been intrigued with guerrilla art. We needed to get people’s attention.”

After months of research, labor and effort, Esposito ultimately made an enormous splash on June 22, 2018, placing a giant opioid spoon sculpture, 800 pounds in weight, outside the headquarters of Purdue Pharma in Stamford, CT. Among those on hand was a crew from The New York Times.

“They ran it like an art article,” said Esposito. “It was a great review with photos and everything but it was the Associated Press that really made it take off nationally.

“We had already dropped the spoon. The gallery owner was arrested,” said Esposito. “The police impounded the spoon, there were about 10 police cars and 20 police officers there. The whole street was closed down. It was crazy mayhem. And then my phone rings.

“It was someone from the Associated Press who wanted to ask me a few questions. I was like, ‘Uh, we’re kind of in the middle of a protest, but go ahead.’ The answers to those questions made it out, word-for-word, across the country – USA Today, The LA Times, everybody picked it up and we were the top news article on Google. I had an old boss in California call me and say, ‘You’re the top story on Google, what the hell are you doing?”

And that’s how it happens.

The full story is featured in the September issue of Westwood Living

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