When you hear here the word “graffiti,” you don’t necessarily associate it with something cozy. But if you’re looking at a yarn bomb, that’s essentially what you’ve got. Yarn bombing, also known as guerilla knitting, involves covering public structures or objects in a colorful, non-permanent way. And UAA just got tagged.
The Balancing Arcs statue, also known as “Happy Man,” sits at the entrance of UAA. During the summer, it’s a fountain, but throughout the winter it sits as a stoic welcome to the campus. But at the end of the Spring semester, the Happy Man looked a little…different.
“We basically made him a sweater. That’s what we did.”
That’s Coleman Alguire, a freshly-minted UAA graduate from Ketchikan, with a degree in Justice and a minor in art. Alguire, 22, is just finishing up a Fiber Structures class, which teaches knitting and weaving among many other forms of textile artwork. Alguire says he and the students in his class were interested in drawing attention to the fiber arts program in an eye-catching way. Inspired from watching the film “Handmade Nation,” a yarn bomb seemed like the right course of action.
“And you want to leave a mark somewhere, but you don’t want it to be permanent, you don’t want it to be destructive to something else. And so if you take knitting and apply it to a surface, you’ve entirely changed the meaning of the surface, the type of surface it’s applied to, the texture of the surface, the color, and it adds all this background information to it.”
The yarn bomb is made up of a collection of pieces of multi-colored knitted pieces that were connected mostly using twist-ties. Alguire says that he wasn’t all that concerned about someone being offended by putting it up.
“It’s yarn. It’s very removable, and that’s the greatest thing about yarn bombing, is that you’re doing this thing, this guerrilla gesture, and they notice it, but it’s not permanent. It doesn’t affect the message at all. When we take it down, it will still be just like it was, but we still achieved the message that we wanted to send out.”
Keren Lowell is the Fiber program coordinator, and taught Coleman Alguire’s spring semester class. Lowell likes to integrate one assignment in her classes where students don’t ask permission to install their art. They just put it up for a little while, and then take it back down.
“It’s never meant to make a permanent mark on a structure but I like the idea of having a creative gesture that makes people look at their physical environment in a different way.”
Lowell says she didn’t really give guerilla knitting a whole lot of thought because she had only seen it done on a small scale. But after she saw the 2010 Christmas Eve yarn bomb on the Wall Street bull in New York City by artist Crocheted Olek, Lowell says she was impressed.
“And that’s ballsy. That’s badassery. And that’s the kind of thing. it’s like, ‘alright!’ That’s the kind of you can do, you can only do that with fiber. What else? what else can you use to do something like that? So, she’s my personal hero.”
Lowell says the yarn bombing of the statue at UAA isn’t just to draw attention to her program, but it’s also a way to draw attention to the structure itself.
“It’s like we just get numb and things do turn invisible, just with familiarity. So yeah, it’s another way of calling attention. We picked that one because it is formally very strong, it’s got the little paired arch of the legs and the upraised arch of the arms and the head, and formally you can put plainer material on it, and it looks good. So you call attention to something that has turned into the backdrop.”
As part of the project, Lowell, Alguire and a few other students removed the yarn bomb two weeks after it was put up. Lowell says plans for the next project will begin when the Fall semester starts.
Listen for the full story
- To see a video of the Yarn Bomb of the Wall Street Bull, follow this link.