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The Art (and Craft) of Community-Building

A public art project brings a town together.


I love a good craft project. In my crafting life, I’ve made hot glue seashell art, cross-stitched wall hangings and tried my hand at sewing, quilting and stenciling. Most of all, I love crochet—the process of looping and pulling a ball of yarn into a lovely, lacy blanket or scarf is supremely satisfying to me.

But in recent years, I stepped away from my inner crafter. Other commitments, including parenting a young child, took precedence over my favorite hobby.

Early this summer, though, an opportunity came up that I had to seize—a public art project known as a “yarn bomb” was in the works in my town. Knitters and crocheters were invited to purchase four colors of yarn, then head off into our creative zones to create panels that will festoon a number of trees along our town’s public bike path. 

The project was individual—other than the dimensions of the finished product, there were no design rules for each of our pieces. But it was also highly communal. We gathered in person a few times to talk about the project plans…and, more importantly, to share snacks and admire and advise each other’s work-in-progress. A Facebook group kept us connected as we worked on summer vacations and backyard hammocks. And this week, we gathered with pride and awe as an arborist hoisted our panels into the trees to complete the installation.

The spirit of teamwork and mutual admiration was palpable, and inspiring. When fellow crafters admired a waffle pattern I was experimenting with in part of my panel, I was motivated to work it in a second color to create symmetry. When I saw the laces others worked into their pieces, I was inspired to look into new patterns for future projects. My work wasn’t the most complex or the most stunning in the group, but it was a contribution I was proud to make to a project that will be on display for walkers to admire for weeks to come.

Working together to create something is a remarkable opportunity. Now that the yarn bomb has made its debut, I will certainly be on the lookout for more creative outlets, both public and personal. Starting with a request from my son, who watched me work on my panel this summer. He requested I make him a hat for the winter—having been part of the public art project team, I have the confidence to get started!

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