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Knit the (Pittsburgh) Bridge

By Teresa K. Flatley
The Andy Warhol Bridge, Pittsburgh, PA

There's a movement afoot here in Pittsburgh to bring communities, artists and the world to our doorstep to celebrate this City of Bridges in a unique way. And to show how well people can work together when they have passion about something.
I am talking about the Knit the Bridge project,  the brainstorm of Amanda Gross, a local Pittsburgh artist, which has become a joint project for other talented locals. In essence, the project leaders have designed a way to drape one of Pittsburgh's iconic bridges -- the one named for Andy Warhol -- with hand knit and crocheted panels (think twin-sized afghans). The two giant support towers will also be covered with yarn.
The Knit the Bridge concept is an offshoot of the practice of yarn bombing,  a form of temporary street art/ graffiti. Crafters knit or crochet a piece and place it on a statue or a parking meter or some other widget out in the public eye. (In Pittsburgh, one artist knit a red cardigan for the sitting Mr. Rogers statue by Heinz Field.)
Knit the Bridge Gallery/Warehouse
Before even receiving permission from the local powers that be to cover one of their bridges,  the movement stayed calm and carried on for months,and finally, permission was granted from officials this week for the Knit the Bridge project to become a reality. In August, Pittsburgh's Warhol bridge, the middle of the city's iconic Sister Bridges,  will be draped in yarn, thanks to the efforts of more than 1,200 volunteers, representing nearly every  one of Pittsburgh's 90 neighborhoods and the 130 municipalities in Allegheny County.
I have to admit that some of us, the more mature volunteers ( at least in age), thought it was a little premature for so much work to be done (600 panels, and hundreds of railing covers and the large colored pieces for the towers) before permission was obtained. But in this instance, the enthusiasm of youth won out and the believers were right. They are to be congratulated for their efforts.
Installation of the panels and tower pieces will be done sometime in mid-August and the yarn goods will stay in place for about four weeks, allowing more time for visitors to come see the beauty of it from both the bridge and the rivers. As daunting as making the knit and crochet pieces has been, installation will be no walk in the park. Twelve thousand zip ties have been donated to adhere the yarn pieces to the bridge so that no parts will protrude from their flat temporary spaces along the bridge's sidewalk. When the project is taken down, all of the panels and pieces will be washed and recycled into blankets and donated to local homeless shelters or other charities.

Thanks to today's technology, those who worked on panels and railing covers, no matter how big or small, will be able to locate their particular work on the bridge thanks to a database which will provide a map to the yarn works.
I have played a small part in all of this, but what I have accomplished has made me happy. I have met new friends and spent time with them.  And I have to admit I will be very excited to locate my work on the bridge -- and of course, point it out to everyone I know!
Somehow I think Andy Warhol would have approved of this project.
Sample panels to be attached to the bridge
For more information, visit http://knitthebridge.wordpress.com/

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