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Museum Educator Becomes Detective

Who knew that sometimes a museum educator has to be a detective? Last year, Johna, our Family Programs Manager came to me and said “I really want the museum to be yarn bombed. Can I look into how to make that happen?” My response: “Why not?”

For some of you, your first question might have been “What on earth is yarn bombing?” Wikipedia, source of so much knowledge defines it as “a type of graffiti or street art that employs colorful displays of knitted or crocheted yarn or fiber rather than paint or chalk.” It’s a rather recent phenomenon, with the earliest recorded yarn bombing in 2004 in the Netherlands. Here in Dallas, one of the earliest projects was at the Lakewood Library, which just happens to be my branch library. I had certainly noticed when the lamp posts got colorful and was thrilled that my neighborhood was hip. Since then, the Dallas Yarn Bombers have also done installations at the Arts District in conjunction with the musical Hair and at the brand-new Klyde Warren Park.

So, Johna started asking around. And asking around. She was pointed in different directions. No one was talking. However, one name kept popping up—The Shabby Sheep, the yarn store on Boll Street, near downtown. Johna went back to the store and had a long conversation with the owner. Johna told me she felt like she was being tested, but evidently she passed, and we got the name of the head yarn bomber in Dallas. But we’re not sharing all the secrets of yarn bombing, so we’ll leave it at that.

From there, it all moved very quickly. The yarn bombers said “yes, we’d love to tackle the Village” in late January—the bombing was installed on March 9 and will be taken down on April 27. Though they may be defined as graffiti artists, these are the most organized artists I’ve ever worked with. Areas of the museum were assigned, projects detailed, lamp posts and hitching posts counted. We gave free admission to anyone who was working on the project and needed to check the Village out for inspiration or just basic measurements. We are also beneficiaries of their previous projects, as several items have been reused at the Village. Installation weekend was miserable—cold and rainy, but we still had over 30 people of all ages come out to attach knitted creations to trees, headstones, swings, wagons, pumps, porch columns, and more. yarn030913_070

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She also finger-knitted the swing set chains.

There are so many delightful details that continue to surprise us. For example, I was back at the farmstead last weekend and noticed some critters I hadn’t noticed before. And the bombing has been up for over a month!_MG_3865

Visitors really are enjoying themselves—I’ve never seen anyone stop to take a picture with one of our fire hydrants before. There are colors everywhere, and it has brought a wonderful sense of fun to the Village.

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Not that we haven’t had our share of questions and concerns about this project. A bride’s mother hesitantly asked me how long the yarn bombing would be up, and there was an audible sigh of relief when I told her. She then quickly apologized and said “Not that it isn’t great, it’s just. . .” We get it—that why there’s not a lot of yarn on Main Street or the fountain (even though the fountain would have looked super cool!). Another group of volunteers asked us how exactly yarn bombing was historically accurate. Our response: it’s a very old skill, being done in a modern way.

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They continued to question, since everything they do must be period correct. Our response: this is temporary. It will come down. Though it’s certainly not historically accurate to have column covers on the porch at the Farmstead, it sure looks cool—and isn’t doing any damage to the building.

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Every now and then, an opportunity for an “outside-of-the-box” partnership comes up. Sometimes the idea comes from the outside, such as the time a group of artists approached us to host the first Aurora art event in 2010. Sometimes it comes internally, such as our current yarn-bombing adventure. We can’t always say yes, but we always think carefully about such partnerships and we’re certainly willing to take a few risks.

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