Street art takes cozy turn with yarn bombing

Thursday, November 4, 2010 | 4:24 p.m. CDT; updated 6:56 p.m. CDT, Thursday, November 4, 2010
The Thomas Jefferson statue on Francis Quadrangle was wearing knitted leg warmers until they were removed Monday night.

COLUMBIA — Columbia’s streets are a little warmer these days, thanks to yarn bombing.

Colorful, knitted fabric has appeared on three parking meters on Ninth Street and on the Thomas Jefferson statue on Francis Quadrangle in the past few weeks.


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Yarn bombing, or knit graffiti, is an international trend that takes street art to a new level. In countries such as Australia, Canada, the United States and many others, knitted and crocheted fabric has joined traditional spray painted murals and installations as street art, said Bex Oliger, co-owner of True Blue Fiber Friends, which has about 2,000 customers in mid-Missouri.

Social knitting groups have been talking about doing this in Columbia for years, Oliger said.

“Social groups have gone one step further here by actually covering things in yarn,” she said.

Last week was the first time Oliger has seen yarn bombing in Columbia. She suspects that younger knitters are responsible for the recent yarn bombing.

“There’s this stereotype that knitters are your grandmothers and aunts and not college students,” Oliger said.

Oliger said knitters "yarn bomb" for fun and to bring attention to the community and the art form.

“Somebody has too much yarn and too much time on their hands,” she jokingly said.

MU sophomore Becca Zurbrick passed the leg warmers on Thomas Jefferson on Monday while giving a campus tour to prospective students and their parents.

“My tour thought they were awesome,” Zurbrick said. “Strangely enough, I think it reflected well on the university. They found the act very fun-loving and creative.”

Knitting vandals?

The yarn bombing undoubtedly adds color to an otherwise muted cityscape, but is it vandalism?

Public Information Officer Jill Wieneke said no.

The knits would not be considered vandalism because they do not damage property, she said.

“Someone putting a scarf on a meter is not really important to us,” Wieneke said. “Our job is to respond to complaints.”

The knits are still hugging the parking meters, but the leg warmers were removed from the Thomas Jefferson statue Monday night.

While MU Campus Facilities did not take off the leg warmers, the department did plan on removing them after Homecoming weekend.

"We would never leave something like that up," MU spokesman Christian Basi said. "It wasn't a part of the artist's original work."

Wieneke said police would respond if businesses or community members complained. At most, violators would be issued a littering ticket, she said.

“It’s not a high priority, but it is something we take care of,” said Jill Stedem, Department of Public Works spokeswoman.

Columbia does not have a vandalism ordinance but does have property damage and littering ordinances.

For both first-degree and second-degree property damage, “A person commits the crime of property damage if he knowingly damages property of another.”

The first part of the littering ordinance reads, “A person commits the crime of littering if he throws or places, or causes to be thrown or placed, any glass, glass bottles, wire, nails, tacks, hedge, cans, garbage, trash, refuse or rubbish of any kind, nature or description.”

According to these ordinances, yarn bombing would be littering. The yarn is “thrown” over an object and can be removed without damage to the property, Wieneke said.

Wieneke said the city would treat a toilet-papering incident in the same way.

Oliger is not sure where the knit graffiti will appear next. Knitting groups have discussed yarn bombing the MU Columns and downtown light posts in the past, she said.

“I’ve heard rumors that the quadrangle trees look cold,” Oliger said.

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Marina Shane November 4, 2010 | 5:44 p.m.

If the kids have to pull some kind of prank, then I'd much rather see knit covered parking meters than eggs on houses or Pumpkins thrown thru car windshields. At least you can easily remove the knitted pieces!
The quote: “Somebody has too much yarn and too much time on their hands,” pretty much sums it up. With all that time spent knitting, you'd think they'd rather see their creations go to good use, then get thrown away!

(Report Comment)
aaron fischer November 6, 2010 | 8:57 a.m.

not so sure i would call this a prank...more of an installation. At least they have people thinking more about what art is, what it can be, and what it does to a society. kudos to the artist!

(Report Comment)
james duval November 6, 2010 | 9:41 a.m.

"With all that time spent knitting, you'd think they'd rather see their creations go to good use, then get thrown away!"

I think their creations ARE going to good use, this got a lot of press (this article, MU photo of the week, etc). Anytime that you can improve on something, make it more beautiful, or simply just have people stop and stare at a piece of art and smile at it, i would say you are improving upon something. I think Columbia is a pretty diverse town and things like this improve upon that diversity and make Columbia feel like a little Chicago, New York, Austin, Portland or any other big city that is doing cool things like this. This is so harmless, it's yarn for goodness sakes, it comes off so easy. To even consider it vandalism is silly. Anytime you make art you are going to have mixed reactions, so take it for what it is, like it, love it, or hate it. At least no one got hurt. I think this is a positive thing and i would love to see more of it. Then again i like art and creative people, sorry if you don't.

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