Knit for your trees: Public art on the cheap

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As a board member of my neighborhood association, I can attest to great horror at the cost (and bureaucracy) involved with public art. Even the most innocuous of pieces starts at several thousand dollars, and months and months of hoop-jumping and consensus-building.

Enter knitting. While the solitary art of knitting has always had its community focus (think socks for soldiers), the concept of knitting together has had its resurgence in the past half-decade. This weekend, my friends Larissa and Martin Brown are celebrating the release of their book, Knitalong, which discusses knitting community through public art projects, knitting get-togethers, and (of course) online knitalongs; they write about fiber artists who have created "installations" ranging from the knitted wedding to a lovely project of a thousand knitted "peace cranes." Larissa is in the middle of creating a lovely installation of a hundred knitted cotton dishcloths.

If you can't build it, knit a cozy for it! An AP piece yesterday investigates the phenomenon of knitted trees, a public art trend which seems to range from artful tree sweaters to small-ish tree warmers to whole knitted trees (without the tree underneath). The tiny town of Yellow Springs, Ohio has a tree whose rather garish striped "sleeves" are compared by a local artist to graffiti street art -- but better, presumably, because of the overall lack of defacement (whether or not you think the tree cozies are artistic, they're quite simple to remove with a sharp pair of scissors if the public cries out).

Tree cozies are great projects for the community organization without major funding, or patience. Forget the RFP, the regional arts council board meetings, the high cost of bronze. Grab some spare yarn, some needles, and a couple of crafty friends and pick a tree.

See what Larissa has to say about this project:
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Public knitting art
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Knit for your trees: Public art on the cheap
Knitting together is a tradition that goes back centuries -- why not use it for public good? I asked a friend and knitting artist, Larissa Brown, what she thought about the concept of public knitted art.
"Public art is truly owned by everyone, whether they like it or not, and this project comes at a much lower cost to the public for its ownership than, say, a statue in a park." -- Larissa Brown, sometime public artist and author of 'Knitalong: Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together.'
"It's also interactive. Knitters often join together in the name of artistic statement. Together many knitters can do something that's more fun, more visible, or more poignant than one knitter alone." -- Larissa Brown, sometime public artist and author of 'Knitalong: Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together.'
"As for the theme: In the art world, sometimes ironic, often deeply meaningful cozies abound. A cozy handknit sweater is something often given to a loved one to comfort them. Themes of protection and comfort are often explored by artists with knitting. The medium seems to lend itself especially well to that theme. In fact, this is not the first time it has centered around knitting cozies for trees. The Stump Cozy Project in Astoria, Oregon, engaged dozens of artists—some of them knitters, some not—in covering tree stumps at a logging site." -- Larissa Brown, sometime public artist and author of 'Knitalong: Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together.'
"As for naysayers, well, you have to realize that public art has always been a field where certain people have heaped scorn and claimed vast waste of resources. At least this project is cheap." -- Larissa Brown, sometime public artist and author of 'Knitalong: Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together.'
"In addition, this project opens itself up for other kinds of complaints. People tend to believe knitting should have a utilitarian purpose, such as clothing the poor. But it's art. You wouldn't ask a statue to clothe the poor, right?" -- Larissa Brown, sometime public artist and author of 'Knitalong: Celebrating the Tradition of Knitting Together.'
So get out there, grab some yarn, and see what you can create!
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