“They took out the trees, I mean, they’re gone, so we weren’t going to do a yarn bomb,” said Gaines Collins, Special Events Coordinator at Two Twelve Arts. For the previous three years, artists associated with the art center had yarn bombed the trees close to their arts center, now removed because of the Michigan Avenue reconstruction project.
Yarn bombing is a form of temporary public art in which trees, statues, bikes, cars or other objects are covered with yarn through knitting and crochet. Unlike graffiti it is easily removed and is intended to enhance not deface public structures.
As Collins and the staff at Two Twelve thought more about their options, they hit upon the idea to decorate a bicycle. The plan grew to 10 bicycles and a scavenger hunt to find them all.
“It was to complement what’s going on right now as far as the construction,” said Director Margie Bovee. “And we knew there was a big initiative to try to get people out, getting them coming downtown, getting them moving around Saline.”
“So we thought, this would be a good way to get the community involved and have them moving around Saline. We tried to encompass as much of Saline as we could.”
They have placed decorated bikes from the Rec Center in the north to Risdon Park in the south. There are mostly located at public places rather than downtown businesses, because the construction prevents installation there.
Cindy Baxter, an instructor at Two Twelve, is also on the city’s Arts and Culture Commission. She encouraged the center to seek some financial support through the commission and they received $350 to pay for yarn, bike locks, tokens and laminated signs.
The work knitting and sewing the pieces onto the bikes was done by a collection of local artists, many from the group called “the Cake Eaters.” They received no compensation except perhaps cake.
“We had a lot of artists, their carpel tunnel was kicking in because they did so much knitting,” Bovee said.
The bikes were donated by various people, including John Waterman from PEAC (Programs to Educate All Cyclists). Waterman also loaned bike locks for the duration of the summer, so they did not have to buy these.
Some of the bikes have designated colors depending on their placement. For example, the bike at Henne Field is purple for the Relay for Life that was held there; the Library bike is pink in honor of Leslee Niethammer and breast cancer awareness; the bike at City Hall is red, white and blue; the bike at Liberty School is Saline Hornet colors.
In some cases, the bikes themselves have special significance. The one at Liberty School used to belong to Brett Jahnke, a well-liked student at the Young Adult Program there.
The yarn bombing project is called “Knit 1 Bike 2 Saline.” The name is a reference to common knitting instructions, “knit 1 pearl 2,” and also an encouragement to bike to Saline.
Two Twelve invites people to visit each bike in town and collect a token. These tokens can be redeemed at the art center for inclusion in a prize drawing.
Participants present their tokens and fill out a card with their name and phone number. Ten cards will be selected during Summer Fest on August 13, just before they children’s play is presented. The winners will receive gift cards to local businesses.
Collins says the art installation has been a success. Town people and those from surrounding areas have come to participate. She has been busy replenishing the tokens in the pouches attached to each bike.