On first impression, “yarn bombing” trees sounds like mischief, but get a glimpse of the intricate and beautiful artwork that will adorn 16 trees in Westerly’s Wilcox Park, and the term “fascination” immediately comes to mind. For the past two years, the Kaleidoscope Trees have stolen the spotlight of the Virtu Art Show held each year over Memorial Day weekend. The show features the fine works of 180 artists/craftsmen from across the country, entertainment, free children’s activities and food.
These gracious trees have presented the art and vision of local knitters who donate their skill, time, and yarn to create what can only be described as a beautiful gift to the community. “The trees become one more attraction to draw people to a fantastic event that engages all of the senses,” says Lisa Konicki, president of the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce and coordinator of the event.
Who are some of the people who create this beautiful tree art? Konicki describes them as people who love to knit, love the park and the community in general, and who want to be a part of an extraordinary community project. Christina Adair is one such person. “Three years ago,” she says, “I saw a posting on Facebook calling for knitters. I jumped at the chance, went to the meeting, and I was hooked!”
Christina has been part of the project from the beginning, gathering her inspiration from her son. “I really want to honor all the little ones and those young-at-heart who come to the festival.” Christina’s creations have included an orange monster, a lion, and this year, a gumball machine. She laughs. “My son is really excited about that.”
Two talented ladies are working as a team on this year’s creations. Carmen Messina and Laura Lafrancesco’s project will be displayed on about ten trees throughout the park. Carmen originally did some research about yarn bombing and wanted to create something, too. She told her friend, Laura, who’d only been knitting for about a year, but wanted to try her hand.
Carmen’s grandmother taught her to knit when she was very young, but Carmen started knitting regularly about 15 years ago. “My son played soccer all year long, so knitting blankets for family and friends was something to keep me busy while watching his practices and games,” she said.Laura admired Carmen’s blankets, and the rest is history.
For such a unique project to take form, Konicki’s idea needed approval from several sources. The concept of sweaters for trees was met with skepticism from those who were unfamiliar with yarn bombing, and those who worried about potential damage to the trees. However, after much convincing, the approval came through and the exhibit became wildly popular. Creations have included a ballerina in a tutu, a mermaid with long blonde braids and a tail, and Mystic Aquarium’s contribution, a “pentapus.”
Konicki sees many benefits from this project. “I believe that knitting is a lost or dying art. Most people think of grandmothers and afghans when they think of knitting,” she says. “Exposing and engaging a broader range of people to the art is an added benefit to our show.” And the public loves it. The trees became photo op backgrounds for prom couples. Children hug the colorful trees and want to know all about the knitting.”
Without exception, these artists gain so much from their participation. Christina has a full and busy life, and “having a large project like this gets my creative juices flowing,” she says. “My knitting gives me the chance to embrace community, be myself, and use my talents.” Carmen and Laura both agree, “We truly enjoy seeing our finished products displayed on the trees in the beautiful setting of Wilcox Park. We are proud of our work and it’s truly a gratifying experience.”
Virtu Art Show
Wilcox Park, Westerly, RI,
May 27-28, 2017
10 a.m.-5 p.m.