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October 22, 2014

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Yarning for attention: Community crochet project spruces up pedestrian bridge

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Yarnstorming, also called yarn bombing or guerilla knitting, is the movement where knitters “tag” trees, parking meters, sculptures, buses and benches with colorful sweaters and cozies.

Guerilla Knitting

A public art project is installed on the pedestrian bridge across Maryland Parkway north of Desert Inn Road in Las Vegas on Monday, June 11, 2012. Launch slideshow »

The question had been nagging residents for years: What does one do with an ugly utilitarian pedestrian bridge crossing a busy thoroughfare? The blocky structure over Maryland Parkway lacked imagination. Made of concrete, steel beams and fencing, it was as lackluster as the stretch of road under it.

But then came a group of senior citizens wielding knitting needles and crochet hooks. Using donated yarn and led by artist Diane Bush, they knitted and crocheted 300 vibrantly colored circles, varying in size, and attached them to two 30-foot shade screens, which were affixed to the fencing recently by Boy Scout Troop 238. Facing outward to the traffic below, they add a dynamic aesthetic to the area, if not a heartwarming community message.

The multigenerational project, using the volunteer labor of seniors at the West Flamingo Active Adult Center, followed earlier yarn storming feats by the center seniors, including yarn bombing the handrails near the center’s entrance.

Unlike traditional yarn bombing — which covers urban street signs, parking meters, trees and benches (as if they’re wearing little sweaters) — the pedestrian project is more akin to colorful murals covering the north and south side of the bridge and carries the same energy and spirit: residents using traditional craft to decorate neighborhoods with love.

“It’s really about the community. This is their neighborhood,” said Maryjane Dorofachuk, member of Friends of Winchester, the group that approached Bush and her knitters at the senior center where Bush works.

Dorofachuk said she’d been driving under the bridge for five years wondering what to do about its appearance, considering it a blank slate.

Bush said the artwork on Maryland (just north of Desert Inn Road) plays off the sun motif of nearby Sunrise Hospital and is permitted to stay up for six months, unless it fades by then.

“The ladies are going to be flipped out, ecstatic,” Bush said. “I’m going to do a field trip. They won’t believe it. Now what we have to do is put some afghans around the base.”

More seriously, she added, “We’re going to concentrate on the center again. We have to redo that railing.”

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