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Now here's a yarn: Ripples of peace to flow out on bikeway

PHOTOS show how installation took shape

Globe, Oct. 1: Cultural district sends ripples

installation 91417The project goes up Sept. 14, with the help of consultant Cecily Miller, right. / Joy Spadafora photo

UPDATED, Oct. 1: North Korea sends test missiles flying over Japan, in a show of flexing war muscles.

As many as 60 in Arlington are making bombs of another kind -- out of yarn.

As an unhinged Asian leader baits a thin-skinned U.S. president, residents here try to ignore the international war of nerves with a show of peaceful artistry.

Yarn-bombing beside the Minuteman Bikeway aims to send ripples of peace.

For a first look at the latest bikeway public-art venture, YourArlington took a walk with Adria Arch in August and, afterward, asked some of the five dozen knitters and crocheters involved to provide images. The installation -- called "Ripple" -- went up Thursday, Sept. 14, just before Town Day.

Arch explains

After we walked about 100 yards from Kickstand Cafe to a stand of trees on the west side of the bikeway, Arch, an Arlington artist and a force behind emerging public art here since 2011, explained:

It all starts with a mess of colored yarn.It starts with a mess of colored yarn ...

"The installation is called 'Ripple' for several reasons. I was looking for a title that would not be too obvious, a title that would refer to the proximity of Spy Pond, to the circular imagery of the bands around the trees and to the idea that creativity ripples from its source, informing and exciting more creativity ever outward."

She is discussing the knitted contributions that will girdle a series of seven to 10 trees with coats of many colors. The yarn-hugged trees of the temporary installation have names.

With so many people working on the project, she "named each of the trees in the installation in order to maintain an order. I wanted a variety of sizes of trees, and I chose certain trees in the grove and had each tree group work on that tree's diameter.

"Naming the trees seemed more friendly than giving a tree a number, so I chose women's names -- since yarn-bombing is a kind of feminist graffiti, swathing the world in a handicraft that has been most typically associated with women in our culture, it seemed appropriate to choose women's names."

What 'yarn-bombing' is

Now the basics: "Yarn bombing" involves "covering objects or structures in public places with decorative knitted or crocheted material, as a form of street art."

The "bombs" have names, so get to know your new bikeway neighbors among the trees. They include Adelaide, Bahati, Calliope, Daphne, Ermengilda, Fabiola, Guinevere, Hermione, Ishtar, Jezebel and Shazia.Then swatches take shape, as this one by Kim Salazar did ...... and then the clicking needles transform the thread ...

Arch wanted each tree to have about 20 feet of knit work, so she divided each tree into five sections, each about 48 inches high.

To accommodate all the people who wanted to work on "Ripple," four others made "singlets," or one 48-inch-high strip that will festoon other trees in the grove.

The pieces will be assembled according to size and the tree names sometime after Sept. 5, the due date for finished work.

Arch said she makes the final choices about design and placement. Several volunteers will help to sew the swatches into the 20-foot lengths of knit work.

Arlington Public Art has hired a team of two aborists — professional tree climbers who will install the pieces 20 feet off the ground, well beyond the reaches of knitter-artists.

Hope to be up 6 months 

The installation is temporary and will be on view for six months. Because the colorful sleeves are made from acrylic yarn, the work will survive rain and snow without damage. Curator and public art manager Cecily Miller plans to keep "Ripple" up through spring, so that visitors can enjoy it as the seasons transform the natural landscape bordering the bikeway.

The knitted art in the Arlington installation has history. In 2005, Magda Sayeg, of Houston, covered the door handle of her boutique with a custom-made cozy. In the decade before Bill Davenport, an artist in that Texas city, was creating and exhibiting crochet-covered objects.

The use transformed from cozies to the "stitched story," attributed to Lauren O'Farrell, who creates street art in London under the graffiti knitting name Deadly Knitshade.

Crochet-knitting pieces have been applied to street furniture, lamp posts, parking meters and even an army tank. See it here >>  

Key way to engage 

Arch, a painter and long a promoter of public art in town, see this latest effort as a significant way to engage: Consider the brisk turnout of knitting participants.

Why? In part, she said, because the activity is fun, adds tinges of humor to creation and involves people in something bigger than themselves.

She said the initial idea for this project came from Miller, a consultant to the town and Arlington Public Art

"The public will be surprised," Arch said. "Who would have thought you could make art in this way?"

We were done talking, and Arch put on her helmet and cycled east down the Minuteman. 

Miller, the curator and manager of the bikeway projects who collaborated with Arch in developing and implementing "Ripple," said later:

"I have enjoyed getting to know this community through my work organizing public art initiatives -- through formal public meetings and casual conversations. I asked Adria to lead a knitting project, because I knew it would fit the spirit and character of this town, which has so much community spirit and creativity. People here really love to roll up their sleeves and contribute to making this a better place for everyone, whether through environmental activism, raising money for the library or schools, or public-art projects." 

The installation has received permissions from Tree Warden Tim Lecuivre and the Board of Selectmen.

Participants, in their own words ...

As many as 60 helped knit together the installation called "Ripple." Here are comments from five about what the art projects means to them:

Kim Salazar, who long has managed the knitting website String-Or-Nothing [photos of her work is above and at left just below]: 

And this one, too, also by Salazar.... until the final products are ready. I'm a member of Team Guinevere, and my assigned spot is all the way up, at the top of that tree's stack.

I was charmed and delighted to hear about the "Ripple project," and am happy to have volunteered. I've seen other yarn-bombing projects in cities worldwide, so the chance to participate in one was a big thrill, especially because it's so local.

I'm also pleased that the project was able to accommodate those of us with pressing work schedules that preclude attending in-person meetings. As a result, I have not actually met anyone else on the project face to face, other than Adria, whom I knew from involvement in the Arlington Center for the Arts, when my kids attended Arts Camp there.

Instead I have been watching the progress of others and cheering them on entirely over social media, both on the Arlington Knitting Brigade page on Facebook [private site], and on Ravelry -- a social-media site dedicated entirely to knitters and crocheters.

On the project's behalf, I set up a special discussion group there for "Ripple," so we can save photos of our growing pieces. It's not as popular as the Facebook page, but it is helping people connect. These virtual contacts have been key to spreading the word about "Ripple," coordinating efforts and making us feel like part of a creative community, even if (like me) the participants haven't sat down together.

My own piece is a bit of happy chaos. I both knit and crochet, and wanted to do something experimental that would combine both, and would allow me to play with the mechanics of using both crafts together. Thankfully, with my tree placement my piece will be far enough away so mistakes will be less evident. And I am really looking forward to seeing all the pieces come together. and with luck -- bringing a smile to my Arlington neighbors.

Susan Doctrow

Sue Doctrow's part in Fabiola

I love that it's a community project and that so many individual creations will contribute to something that will touch so much more of the town. In that sense, it reminds me of Chairful Where You Sit. Because each piece represents a different artist's unique vision, what the final project will look like is unpredictable.

I love, too, that we are decorating the bike trail, a place I travel often in my daily life (that was a fun aspect of Chairful in its early years, too). When I was practicing putting my piece on the tree named Fabiola, I enjoyed the way so many people walking by were curious about it and how one woman explained to her young son "she's putting a sweater on a tree.”

Kimberley Harding

finished 175

Participating in the "Ripple" public art project has been unique and creative way to connect with other women in Arlington and to strengthen my own bond with the town I have called home for nearly 30 years. It has also sparked ideas for creative endeavors on my own property.

I hope the project will have the intended ripple-effect of inspiring others in town.

Her finished swatch is at left.

Joy Spadafora

Joy Spadafora's backyard trial: 48 x 19; handknit shown on tree.

Adria Arch is not only a talented artist, but also a community-builder. She finds creative ways to bring people together to raise awareness, beauty, and sometimes funding for additional art projects. "Ripple" reminds me of the public art exhibit "Chairful Where You Sit," which brought whimsically painted chairs to Arlington Center for five successful summers. Many artists joined together to contribute to a larger, more meaningful project.

As a knitter, as an avid bikeway user, and as an artist, "Ripple" means so much to me. The project incorporates things I love with what I believe about public art. It should be accessible to all, thought-provoking, serve as a catalyst for conversation, and enhance its surroundings. This sanctioned yarnbombing of trees along the historic Minuteman Bikeway not only celebrates the 25th anniversary of our beloved bike path, but also brings color, creativity, conversation -- and perhaps a few cameras -- to our quaint community of Arlington. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to be part of this collaboration and excited to see this fantastic project installed. 

Kirsi Allison-Ampe

Kirsi Allison-Ampe and her daughter with yarn art, Sept. 5, 2017Kirsi Allison-Ampe, left, and her daughter Katja display their part of the colorful project.

My daughter Katja and I worked as a team. It was fun to collaborate; we had discussions before starting our work about what we were hoping our piece would look like, and based on that, we did some exploration and testing of different stitches.

I found out it is harder to make something that comes out looking as it was originally imagined. Katja thinks it is an interesting way of exploring a traditional fiber-based medium in a modern way. We're looking forward to seeing the whole project in situ soon.


Reception held Sept. 23

Arlington Public Art and the Arlington Commission on Arts & Culture joined for an open-air reception for "Ripple," the latest public art installation along the Minuteman Bikeway.

Created by Adria Arch and the 57 volunteers of the Arlington Knitting Brigade, "Ripple" celebrates art, nature and community. Brigade members knitted and crocheted unique panels using a shared palette developed by Adria. Wrapped around tree trunks, theirwork has transformed a small grove of Norway Maples into a magical place of the imagination -- filled with vibrant color, varied patterns, and rich textures. 

"Ripple" is part of Pathways, an initiative designed to bring art to one of Arlington's busiest, yet most arcadian, public spaces: the forested bikeway that passes by Spy Pond. Pathways commemorates the 25th anniversary of the bikeway and connects Arlingon Center and Capitol Square, traversing the town's newly designated cultural district.

Meet Arch and the members of the Arlington Knitting Brigade as well as Niloufer Moochhala, Claudia Ravaschiere and Mike Moss -- the artists who created Rhetoric of Opposites and Flutter earlier in the summer. 

The schedule was:

11:00 am Gather for refreshments at Spy Pond Park (near Pond Lane)
11:30 Remarks by Town officials
12:00 Walking Tour of 4 works: City Fox, Flutter, Rhetoric of Opposites and Ripple
1:00 Reception concludes

"Ripple" was supported by a grant from the Arlington Cultural Council, a local agency supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. Arlington's craft and art supply store Playtime donated a portion of the cost of yarn.

Local restaurants are donating food for the reception, including Za Restaurant.


July 11, 2017: Bikeway art cycles away from black/white thinking

Arlington Public Arts 

Boston mgazine, June 3, 2014: Group 'Yarn Bombs' Mass. Ave. Bridge

Images of yarn-bombing in Boston >> 

This news feature was published Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2017. Updated Sept. 14, to add photo of  installation; Sept. 17, to add link to photo series; Sept. 19, to add reception; and Oct. 1, to add Globe link.

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