Stitching together the fibers of Pittsburgh communities through art

By Rebecca Lessner

Point Park News Service

Pittsburgh fiber artists were seeking a way to mark an triennial exhibition of knitting and crocheting when their lead artist spun up the idea to “yarn bomb” the Andy Warhol Bridge.

Nine months later, the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh has developed plans to cover the bridge named for the iconic artist with yarn-panels to draw attention to this year’s international exhibition, while also bringing artists and amateurs alike together for a common purpose.

“One stitch at a time we are bridging people, neighborhoods and communities” said Kitty Spangler, Knit the Bridge technical advisor. “It’s a broad project including as many people as possible, it’s not just for fine artists, it can be young adults to grandparents”.

The Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh will be holding their triennial exhibition of fiber art work from April 19 to Aug. 18 this year. The event, being held at the Society for Contemporary Craft and the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, attracts textile artists worldwide who wish to submit their work to be judged into the show.

Yarn bombing can be either gorilla art, done overnight with no permissions much like graffiti, or it can be public art when the right permissions are given.

“We’re doing all the right things,” said Spangler, going through the steps of getting the project approved by the keepers of the bridge and the Office of Public Art for permission and insurance of the month-long exhibit.

Lead Artist, Amanda Gross, Age 29 from East Liberty, began formulating the idea to yarn-bomb a bridge during the ‘Downtown Pop-Up Pittsburgh’ event held back in the fall of 2011. Herself along with the Guild were put in charge of drawing attention to the Fiberarts guild. They began by installing yarn-bombs of tree and lampposts throughout the Cultural District. She then began to think more large scale, she states, “after all, what’s more Pittsburgh than bridges?”

The bridge was chosen because it’s the first bridge to be dedicated to a visual artist in Pittsburgh. The Guild plans to cover the bridge in nearly 600 panels of knitted or crocheted work that is 34 by 72 inches. Spangler compared the panels to the size of a couch. Because of the style of the panels and the bridge walkways; the fiber work will be “framed as if they are picture frames”

Spangler stated, “I love the idea that it’s an ‘Arts for arts sake’ project”.

While viewers walk down the bridge’s sidewalks they will be able to take in the “bright and splashy” colors of the acrylic yarn being used. It was specifically chosen for it’s affordable qualities and durability. Also the colors of acrylic yarn are eye catching and cheerful. The group is receiving donations of yarn, along with the tools needed to complete the project, while also teaching new volunteers the craft.

Amanda Gross shared their plans of reaching all the Pittsburgh neighborhoods as well as all the boroughs in Allegheny County.

“We have 58 out of 90 Pittsburgh neighborhoods and 92 out of 130 Allegheny County townships and boroughs” she states, “we are meeting our geographic goals.”

“The project is completely volunteer run”, Spangler said. “People are spending their time and energy. Anybody who can knit or crochet is welcome,” she said, adding anyone who wants to learn is welcome.

The project can still use volunteers to knit as well as help with the actual installation of the piece. Amanda Gross and the Guild are reaching the communities through local events like “Art on Tap”; held at the Westmoreland Museum, they have also hosted events at the Children’s Museum and the Neighborhood Academy. These events along with monthly knitting circles and meet ups have reached out to children from two years old to seniors for participation.

Spangler has taught several new volunteers the ropes of crocheting and she believes in, “to each one, teach one,” a motto that means for everyone taught will be an opportunity for the pupils to teach their own friends.

“I’m the all around cheerleader,” she said. “I’m always excited when somebody wants to learn”.

Spangler has been holding ‘Knit Ins’ at her home along with several other volunteers; who host these events at their own homes or at local locations, such as coffee shops and libraries.
She will set a date, put on a pot of coffee and welcome in those who want to learn, socialize and create.

Through these Knit Ins she has had a total of 61 different people participate; hosting Knit Ins twice a month. With this project they have had the opportunity to visit local schools, nursing homes and libraries to teach fiber art and create a closer knit community.

“It’s been a really good adventure,” Spangler said. “I get to practice and I’ve met a lot of people through this.”

With every stitch put into this project more communities will be knotted together to create a piece of art; which will display a sense of camaraderie and citizenship that can be found throughout Pittsburgh.

For more information on how to volunteer with Knit the Bridge, visit their website at ‘knitthebridge.wordpress.com’. Keep up to date with new events and activities happening close to your neighborhood by visiting their Facebook page ‘Facebook.com/KnitTheBridge’. If interested in the Fiberart International 2013 event, be sure to check out the Fiberarts Guild of Pittsburgh Inc. website at ‘fiberartspgh.org’.

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Category: Arts & Culture, Spring 2013

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