‘Yarn Bomb’

Selected lampposts on the SUNY Fredonia campus have undergone a makeover that the whole community can enjoy.

The posts along the Central Avenue entrance and those around the adjoining Symphony Circle now feature brilliantly colored yarn in stripes, zigzag patterns and one charming totem of yarn monsters. The work was done during the school’s first “yarn bomb” project, which was organized in conjunction with the opening of the “Gone Viral: Medical Science in Contemporary Textile Art” exhibition in the Cathy and Jesse Marion Art Gallery at Rockefeller Arts Center.

According to organizers, “yarn bombing” is an increasingly popular movement that involves a spontaneous public installation of knitting, crochet or yarn handiwork. Many people trace the beginning of yarn bombs to a simple custom-made door handle cozy that Texas shop owner Magda Sayeg crocheted for her business in 2005.

The practice spread among the graffiti street art community as a simple, lightweight and effective medium for changing the appearance of the everyday environment. “Yarn bombing” can be an act of political or social commentary or one of community involvement and beautification.

“In an increasingly mass-produced, industrialized, urbanized and digitized age, I think it’s important to maintain some connection to the value of handcrafted objects,” said Leesa Rittelman, associate professor of Art History at SUNY Fredonia and curator for the “Gone Viral” exhibition. “Traditional media like crochet, knitting, quilting or even whittling a piece of wood take the maker momentarily away from the multiple glowing screens they’re attached to and into a more consciously connected, even meditative frame of mind.”

The preparations for the SUNY Fredonia project began nearly a year ago when Rittelman was doing research and planning for the “Gone Viral: Medical Science and Contemporary Textile Art” exhibition.

With a goal of engaging the community in the exhibition, which features the work of national and international artists, the Marion Gallery hosted two crochet workshops to teach students and community members the basic skills that would be necessary for a yarn bomb project. There was a strong turnout for the workshops, which in turn led to a new Facebook group and plans for an official campus yarn bomb.

Those plans came to fruition on March 2 when volunteers spent the morning installing original yarn creations around lampposts on Symphony Circle at the Central Avenue entrance. Reactions to the yarn bomb have been “unanimously positive,” according to organizers. Observers have called the installation “happy-making,” “uplifting” and “cozy.”

“Gone Viral: Medical Science in Contemporary Textile Art” features the works of three American artists and two British artists designed to call attention to current scientific and biomedical issues through the textile medium. The goal of the exhibition is to encourage a dialogue between the arts and sciences with artworks that lend visual form to often complex, abstract scientific and social concerns.

All the artists worked with research institutions in the execution of their medical-based pieces. Embroidered British World War II uniforms, a bacteria-dyed gown, and interweaving stethoscopes are just a few examples of the nontraditional intersection of ideas represented in the exhibition.

“Gone Viral” runs through April 7. Gallery hours are 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 2 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday.