Reaching out to others is very important. And it is a skill I don’t often use. So, this holiday season, I decided to do what is difficult for me to do and to reach out to others. Everyone in my family and close circle of friends received a sweater to help me complete my journey in raising awareness for the National Coalition for the Homeless. I chose to complete this project in part due to my own experiences. While I was never without shelter, the shelter I sometimes had as a child was not one I would imagine my own children experiencing. These shelters sometimes included cars, campers, old trailers, barns and dilapidated structures. Some did not have working plumbing, electricity, or other amenities such as a refrigerator or stove. While commonplace items for most homes, these were complete luxuries I lived without. And while it may sound as if I am having a pity party for one, the reality is that many people in my community also experienced similar living situations. And while I would never have considered myself or my mother as homeless as a child, according to the outlines provided by NCH, many of these conditions would have classified us as such. These same experiences also made me the person I am today: a person who sometimes struggles with the wants of society but is grateful for the luxuries I have including a well paying job that I love and worked very hard to obtain; one who has a loving family who supports me and my quirks, and has friends who put up with the creative reclusive impulses I put them through. This year was also one where I was able to reach out to supportive family in order to provide a home for my mother who had been living in less than ideal circumstances. Through this experience, I have also had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know a great family who is assisting with my mother’s needs as she continues her struggling journey down the path of life.
Having worked with several different populations of homeless adults and youth in previous community art projects, completing Found Objects is one in which I felt that I could directly impact people’s awareness of such social issues; question artistic standards of representation outside the main frame system of capitalist structures; and utilize a common collaborative oriented craft as an artistic medium for expression and activism. While I will not be knitting any additional sweaters for this project, anyone interested in participating through knitting and placing a sweater are encouraged to contact me for directions. Thanks to those who also participated by knitting and placing sweaters including Terri Minkin, Jill Mcilroy, Pam Murray, Kathy Schultz, Theresa Krivosheev, Louise Greenfield, Nita Mehnert, Leann Nassar, Patti Shield, Suzanne Arney and Patt Sheldon. I enjoyed getting to know all of you through this project. May 2012 be a great year for everyone!
While the last posts here on this blog have displayed groups of sweaters, sometimes it seemed most beneficial to have a lot of sweaters to provide greater visual impact. This placement is case in point. At the northwest corner of Scottsdale Road and Pinnacle Peak Road, a dozen signs exist for various developments in the area for new homes with grandiose amenities or lifestyles. I pass this corner on a regular basis and couldn’t resist the urge to place a collection here to contrast the purpose of the advertisement. While on one hand, the viewer might think the sweaters are a gimmick for the housing development, the intention is quite the opposite. Also, in this neighborhood of homes where the average cost of a house is around the low $500’s and up, I wanted to promote an organization such as NCH whose mission is to educate the public on the various dilemmas people face when they struggle for shelter. We’ll see how long the sweaters remain there. Many people I am sure will just drive by and not even think to stop to pick one up (unless you follow the blog of course).
To commemorate the project for posterity, I sent one sweater off to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Megan Hustings, the Director of Development, and I have been in correspondence over the past year and a half regarding the project and any proceeds that could be directly attributed to the finding of the sweaters. The letter outlines the completion of the project on my part and thanks the organization for letting ARTivention sponsor them for this collective endeavor. And while Megan has been keeping up with the blog, now she will have a sweater in person to look at and be reminded of all of us who have knitted and placed a sweater around the country in support for the organization and its mission.
For the longest time I have wanted to place a sweater at a model home furnished by IKEA in a giant parking lot that serves both IKEA and several stores opposite of the store. It is a very peculiar setting to see this house smack in the middle of the parking lot. Then, when you enter the home, a peculiar array of sales people are sitting around, waiting for any interaction. And, finally, during a recession caused primarily by the housing market, it seems extremely strange to see this development promote its amenities while the state of AZ is one of the hardest hit with foreclosures flooding the current market price. After inquiring about price of various locations, it is obvious that this factor has affected the pricing structure since the homes are much more reasonably priced than if they had been built six years ago. Once inside the extremely large home, it’s hard not to get excited about the possibility of living in such luxury. I couldn’t help but think of the number of families that could live inside this home without being overcrowded. Only in America could you sell homes that haven’t been built yet while others can’t even be written off the bank’s books.
Even though the southwest is noted for it’s mild winters, the nights can still be quite chilly and unbearable if you have to live out in the cold without any heat. After I knitted this sweater, I realized that the colors were that of Fresh & Easy, a local grocery store, and thought it beneficial to place the sweater there. Having already placed one on the bulletin board, I decided the log pile would be a great visual reminder of the comforts of heat during the cold winter nights.
Getting closer to the final countdown of placed sweaters! These too, were also gifts to those who were aware of the project and would be more than happy to participate in the act of kindness associated with the tag request.
Along the highway that encircles the Phoenix metro area is a semi-vacant expanse of shops, homes and parking garages. The image being promoted for sales is one of arrival. You will be truly happy once you are here. The amenities are so enticing: the farmer’s market, proximity to destination shopping districts and of course, easy access to the highway. Obviously started prior to the recession, this development has remained in limbo for the last 4 years. Recently, these signs have been placed on the chain link fence that surrounds the barren desert floor that is adjacent to the highway and the development. It reminds me a bit of Arrested Development and the model home location of the Bluth’s development.
These sweaters were handed out as Christmas gifts to colleagues and friends who would not only appreciate the hand crafted part of the project, but also the social mission. The goal of the remaining 60 sweaters is to make a monetary impact. So, what better way to fundraise than to touch the people who you already know. Of course, the sweaters are a great bonus too!
I placed this sweater in a popular shopping area in north Phoenix. What you can’t get from this photo is that the entire shopping area, including the parking lot is wired for sound. This means that you hear music as you walk to your car. It creeped me out when I first discovered this because it seems as if you entered an alternative Hollywood landscape or a bad music video. However, it is a popular shopping destination as it is one of the closest to many homes that have erupted from the desert landscape in the region. And it was a very crowded day which means hopefully a generous person found this little sweater hanging, waiting to be found.
On the eve of one of the most commonly celebrated events in Christianity, 18 sweaters were placed at 18 different churches throughout the valley. Since the Christmas story is one about looking for shelter for an expectant mother having been turned down by everyone except an inn keeper who can only provide the comforts of a barn, it seemed fitting to post these sweaters at churches. The Gospel is full of stories that tell us to be mindful of the people within our midst who fall into the “marginal” portion of our collective and not to focus on the rules, laws and customs within a religious practice in order to appease God. On this day, I am hoping that those who find these sweaters will think of the people who are not related to us, within our circle of friends or acquaintances, and might not be the people we would even necessarily want to talk to but who need our help. Remembering the hope that Christmas brings to us–birth, hope, and something other than ourselves–that’s what we should be celebrating this season.