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!
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.
Sweater #237 was placed at a parking pay station at Montrose Harbor Recreation Drive in Chicago on a very steamy summer morning. The pathway was full of runners, walkers and cyclists. It was amazing to see so many people out and about being active despite the high humidity and increasing temperature. I happened to be there to meet with a former Roosevelt University student and run with her for a few miles up the pathway. After an invigorating run, and realizing that there were to be many more people visiting this location after my departure, it seemed like an ideal public location for a sweater. While I am not sure how long this sweater remained at this location due to the wind, it made a great image emphasizing the monetary impact that we can make, especially when we consider other expenditures routinely made throughout a day.
While strolling around down town Evanston on Saturday, the brightly painted fire hydrants caught my eye. As the iconic symbol of relief in time of emergency, the placement of this sweater here seemed ideal. It was also a great convergence of streets and pedestrian traffic as people wandered by, shopping and following various historical and architectural tours of the town. Across the street from this location, several street people were hawking Streetwise, a paper that provides some income to the vendor and some interesting articles about the struggles that homeless folks encounter. While many people pass the vendor by as they are walking, it seems like a great way to engage the average pedestrian with such an important issue.
In the continued attempt to locate all public posting places, bill boards, etc., a sweater was placed in the entry way of Tom Thumb in Evanston, IL. This sweater is aptly placed next to a sign promoting equality for all individuals despite any circumstances that they may face. As this store also happens to be a place for makers of all types to seek when purchasing supplies, maybe it will inspire others to join the production and placement of the sweaters as we move closer to the 365 goal!
Terri contributed this sweater which happens to be one of the tiniest sweaters knitted thus far (slightly larger than a nickel). She was attracted to the front of the card that says: “Never underestimate the difference….” For her, the final portion of the quote should read “….one little sweater might make.” And while I sometimes wonder if this project will bring any additional awareness to the need of individuals who struggle with maintaining a decent quality of life which includes a warm bed to go to every night, I have to hope that every little sweater does make a difference.
As the project is in it’s projected half-way completion point, I have been placing sweaters in locations that might inspire others to join in and knit along side me either figuratively or literaly. One of the most unique characteristics about this project is its ability to collaborate with people both near and far. It is in this vein that Terri has placed a sweater at her local yarn shop to inspire others to participate in this large collaborative project. People are encouraged to either knit a sweater from the pattern I provide, attach a tag that I also provide, and place in an environment, or to be a part of just the placing and documenting of the sweater. Tell anyone you know who may want to participate about this project and let’s spread the word! So far, this project has seen participants all around the country and in Canada. A future post will outline the locations of people who are participating in either knitting or placing sweaters to visualize how collectively, we can impact a problem by using a creative means.
Another great placement by Terri in the Midwest! Inspired by the imagery of freshness and the colors of renewal, Terri thought it a wonderful site for a sweater. The flowers not only inspire hope for the newness of life and the upcoming spring, but they also are a vivid symbol of celebration, honor, and thanksgiving. Hopefully, the person who finds this sweater is inspired by such feelings to provide a little hope for those who may not always have it at their finger tips.
This sweater was placed in Papago Park which is near the Phoenix airport, the light rail, the botanical garden and the zoo. The low-lying buttes provide rocky crevices for hikers and mountain climbers to explore this desert environment. As I came across this blockade for the new vegetation of the jumping cholla, it struck me how we work so hard to re-populate natural habitats. The spiny cacti parts in the background are waiting to take shallow root into the sandy desert soil. The only obstacle for these cacti to rejuvenate is the ability to obtain the proper amount of moisture and sunlight that is needed for this natural process to occur. I couldn’t help thinking about the obstacles for those attempting to re-integrate into our societal fabric resulting from issues that often lead to homelessness. If only it were so easy as to put up a sign and a barricade and let nature take its course.
Terri knitted and placed this sweater in a very unique place in a local grocery. Apparently, customers can purchase these bags of food and then donate them through a program called Family Sharing. Additionally, bags can be purchased and then donated to the Humane Society. What a great idea–making the act of giving even simpler and easier for the busy customer. Also, it’s such a great place to put this little sweater. I am sure some lucky person had the find of the day! Thanks, Terri!