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Yarn Bombing

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

By Jill Webb

This summer, the Middle Country Public Library is giving the community a chance to not only admire the beauty of nature but to create something new and exciting within it.

Artist Carol Hummel brought yarn-bombing to the Middle Country Public Library with her Crochet It! project, making circles that will be part of an installation on display in September. Photo from The Long Island Museum

Crochet It! is being hosted by the library as a community-driven art collective in which trees will be wrapped with thousands of colorful crocheted circles. This project will be creating two separate art installations to be displayed at the library for the public to enjoy.

Tracy LaStella, the library’s assistant director for youth services, beamed recalling the nearly 100 people who showed up for the June kick-off, where the library went through its first four boxes of macramé for the trees. Since then, she’s seen people of all ages and backgrounds become participants.

“This is our third drop-in, and they just keep on getting bigger and bigger,” LaStella said.

Carol Hummel, an artist well known for her large-scale installations and global projects, attended the Middle Country Public Library’s kick-off to offer two instructional workshops and will return in September to start the decorations she refers to as “artwork by the people, for the people.”

Since 2004, Hummel has been traveling to do community crocheting projects, also known as yarn-bombing. This is Hummel’s third time doing an installation on Long Island — her first was in Oyster Bay, and the  second was at Stony Brook’s Long Island Museum after being noticed at a gallery showing in the area.

After the installation at The Long Island Museum, Hummel said the staff told her that they still get 10 people a day, at least, that stop and come to The Long Island Museum to look at the trees. “And then they get exposed to the place,” Hummel said.

Participants not only get pleasure from creating the pieces but also get to enjoy them  after they are installed.

“It exposes people to a kind of art — contemporary art — that is different than going into a museum and looking at a painting on a wall,” Hummel said.

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

Hummel’s role in Crochet It! is planning, designing and figuring out logistics, like how much of each yarn color is needed. Then, the project is turned over to the library’s volunteers to produce pieces, which Hummel and her team will put together in September.

The artist said she enjoys working with Long Islanders, saying that they get many people involved.

Participants have the choice to work individually or attend the drop-in crochet sessions hosted at the library. The Crochet Socials Drop-in Sessions will have instructors present and will be taking place until September.

Instructor Corin LaCicero, 38, walked around the July 12 session, offering assistance to anyone who needed help.

“It’s fun to see them learn, and when they get it they get really excited,” LaCicero said of the participants. She explained that after a few weeks they’re learning how to create things like chains and circles.

LaCicero was taught to crochet by her mother and grandmother at 8 years old. Having the hobby passed down leads her to emphasize the benefits of group sessions.

“Some people might have different techniques than others,” she said. “You might have someone come who’s left-handed and it’s hard to teach, and someone else can help with that.”

Local residents receive crochet circle instructions and create works of art to be displayed at Middle Country Public Library’s Centereach location this September as part of Carol Hummel’s global project. Photo from MCPL

The trees will be adorned with orange, blue, yellow and purple yarn in the Nature Explorium at the library’s Centereach building, where the drop-in sessions are held. “We must have over a thousand circles done already, and we need thousands because we’re doing two large trees on the property here,” LaStella said. “My office is just filled with the circles.”

Marianne Ramos-Cody, of Selden, sat in on a drop-in session July 12 for the first time with her two young children nearby.

“I’ve crocheted before, but nothing like this,” Ramos-Cody said as she demonstrates the circular pattern of the crocheting with her son by her side. “He wants to learn, but I gotta learn first to show him.

The library is offering Crochet It! kits to be picked up for any participants to start their work. The kit includes all of the materials necessary for making the circles.

The Decentralization Program, a regrant program of the New York State Council on the Arts, has given the necessary funds for the project to take off. The Huntington Arts Council administers the project, which will integrate nature and art into the community.

Community involvement is one of the beneficial aspects of the project, and drop-in crochet sessions will be Aug. 9 and 22 and Sept. 6 and 12 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Centereach location at 101 Eastwood Blvd.

“It’s always nice to experience something that’s so inspirational to everybody who’s working on it,” Hummel said.

She’s excited to be one of the first artists to go viral with yarn-bombing.

“People always say ‘aren’t you afraid people are going to copy you?’ I want them to copy me — I think it’s great,” Hummel said. “Spread joy and art around the world — that’s the best thing you can expect.”

Dedication ceremony to be held this Sunday

Molly Sedensky affixes the crocheted pieces on one of the trees on the grounds of the Long Island Museum. Photo by Ellen Barcel

By Ellen Barcel

Boxes and boxes of brightly colored crocheted rounds were stashed in a room in the administration building of the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook in early July waiting for volunteers under the direction of artist Carol Hummel to be attached to two large trees and three smaller ones on museum grounds.

This was the final step in the yarn bombing project, [email protected], which began last January at the museum when community volunteers, more than 200 in all, began making the pieces. Yarn bombing, also called urban knitting, guerilla knitting and graffiti knitting, began as a way of bringing the community together by decorating public works including trees, statues and even railings with colorfully knit or crocheted pieces.

The art form has spread to other countries with Hummel traveling to Europe on a number of occasions to work on a community project.

Hummel, who has a master’s degree in sculpture from Kent State University, began yarn bombing in 2004 with a public art competition in Cleveland. She noted that she had the idea of decorating these trees at the Long Island Museum for several years. Two are large and visible from the road, Route 25A, so can even be seen by community members driving by.

So for the past approximately six months the volunteers have been crocheting. On July 6, Hummel and her volunteers began affixing the crocheted pieces to the trees. The color palate and pattern were carefully worked out in advance, with the lowest pieces on the trees in deep blue and purple and the colors lightening and brightening as they work their way up the tree in the high branches.

The nylon yarn does not harm the trees, she noted, as air easily passes through the crocheting as does rain. She’s even seen insects crawling around the crocheting and an occasional bird removing a loose string for its nest.

Hummel was assisted by daughters Molly Sedensky and Emily Ellyn. Sedensky could be seen on a lift, high up in a tree, wrapping it with the rounds. Volunteers came each day of the installation to assist.

“I brought in everybody,” Hummel noted referring not only to her daughters but her grandchildren as well. “It’s a big job.” Ellyn, a chef who has been on the Food Network, drove up from her home base in Florida to assist.

The exhibit will be in place for two to three years depending on weather conditions. Already, “people have been coming by and looking . . . we’re spreading a little happiness — it makes everybody smile,” said Hummel, taking a brief break from the installation. In addition to the five trees at the Long Island Museum, one tree at Avalon Park and Preserve was also yarn bombed.

The official opening of [email protected] and a dedication ceremony will be held on Sunday, July 19, at 2 p.m. with the artist and all the volunteers who worked to make the exhibit possible. The Stony Brook Chamber Ensemble will present an outdoor concert, featuring a brass quintet. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own seating, chairs or blankets, for the concert. In the event of rain, indoor space will be available.

The Long Island Museum is located at 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook. For further information, please call the museum at 631-751-0066.