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Artist teaches Lee Elementary students yarn art

Monday, November 18, 2013 | 6:58 p.m. CST; updated 10:27 p.m. CST, Monday, November 18, 2013
Eric Rieger, left, helps elementary school children hang their yarn art creations Monday at Lee Elementary. Rieger, a former graffiti artist, is now a "yarn bomber" and puts temporary art installments in chain link fences, around trees and through poles. He will be installing a yarn piece in Jesse Hall for the 2014 True/False Film Fest.

COLUMBIA — After Monday afternoon's art class, Carissa Seek's third-graders grabbed handfuls of yarn and ran onto the playground, past the slides, swings and jungle-gym, to congregate alongside a chain-link fence.

Their tiny fingers worked the multicolored strands into the fence links to create a mosaic of shapes. Olivian Shatto nodded towards her trapezoid and said, "Yeah, it's a hound of doom. From the underworld."

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This week, students at Lee Expressive Arts Elementary School will create artwork out of yarn under the supervision of Eric Rieger, a True/False Film Fest collaborator and yarn-artist.

Rieger demonstrated his own technique on the school's front fence. He looped yellow yarn through the chain-link fence, up, down and diagonally, until the word "LEE" took shape in italic letters with serifs.

Midway through his demonstration, the children grew restless. Some began to jump onto the fence.

"I am art," a few of them said while hanging beside his yarnwork on the fence.

The teachers shooed them down, but Rieger just laughed. He's worked with children before but never so young or so many.

Before transitioning to yarn, Rieger was a graffiti artist. He switched after some run-ins with police. Since then, he's graduated from art school and exhibited his work in galleries and museums.

But even if Rieger has taken his art off the street, he hasn't taken the street out of his art.

"I think when people pass it by, they see street art. But they also see yarn, and they see letters," he said. "It's hard to pinpoint why people are drawn to it."

Rieger is one of many artists True/False brings to Columbia throughout the year. He's planning to display a yarn-based installation in Jesse Hall during the festival.

True/False tries to make the most of the artists' visits by sharing them with local schools, said Camellia Cosgray, the festival's production and operations manager.

Lee Elementary art teacher Ann Mehr seemed delighted to share her classroom with an artist who works in such an accessible medium.

Introducing Rieger to her class, she said: "Guess what — Eric is actually," her voice dropped to a whisper, "a big kid."

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.


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