Will a Crochet Billboard Be Coming to a Town Near You?

Crochet artist Olek has been inspiring the world for years with her large-scale yarn-bombing projects. Her newest project, Love Across the USA, takes this work to another level by including volunteers from across the nation.

Crochet artist Olek stands in front of the Harriet Tubman mural on display at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, New York. Photo by Christopher Malloy.

The Love Across the USA Project

The goal of this collaborative crochet art project is to install a billboard celebrating a woman in history in every state of the United States in order to honor the positive voices that women have added to U.S. history—voices that sometimes went unrecognized in their own time. Each billboard features the crocheted image of a woman and a quote sharing her voice.

In writing for the project’s website, Olek said, “It is only as a united group that we can promote positive women’s voices and create real change. Just as many loops connect to create a strong crocheted fabric, we are stronger together.”

The project’s emphasis is on community. It isn’t just for women; men are invited to contribute as well, and of course so are children of all ages. It’s meant to be inclusive, and all are welcome regardless of political affiliation. Workshops will be held in each city with an installation, allowing people to come together to craft as a community. Each small piece that an individual crochets becomes one part of a whole billboard, which in turn is one part of the entire project; we are each “knitted” together step by step through this work.

The First Crochet Billboards

The project’s first crochet billboards went up in New York. This was a practical choice for Olek, who lives in New York City, but it was also a symbolic choice, because the women’s suffrage movement began in New York state. An installation in Rochester celebrates Susan B. Anthony with the quote “Independence is Happiness;” another of Harriet Tubman in Auburn reads, “Slavery is the next thing to Hell.” One of the most touching moments of the project so far was when Tubman’s great-great-grandniece Pauline Copes Johnson had her photograph taken in front of the work.

Love Across the USA volunteers smile beneath the Harriet Tubman mural on display at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, New York. Photo by Christopher Malloy.

The project has touched people in so many different ways, whether they have a hand in crocheting a panel for a billboard or not. The difficult-to-miss crochet murals encourage passersby to learn more about the strong females depicted on those billboards, sparking conversations about women’s issues throughout history. They might also inspire more people to crochet! Posts about each project on the Love Across the USA website provide additional information about the women featured on the panels.

Get Involved!

Olek has completed many large-scale projects of her own and could certainly have stayed in her studio and made these billboards herself, but one of the primary goals of the project is collaboration. She wants community members to get hands-on with bringing attention to women’s rights, history, and influence.

Men and boys join in at the Love Across the USA workshops to raise awareness of women’s contributions to U.S. history. Photo by Christopher Malloy.

Each crochet billboard is supported not only by the Love Across the USA Project but also by organizations in each community that hosts a billboard. For example, the Susan B. Anthony piece was installed outside of the nonprofit yarn store Sew Green Rochester, which coordinated the effort around this particular part of the project.

It took two hundred volunteers about two months to crochet the 351 two-by-two-foot panels that make up this mural, and it took another twelve hours to install the finished project, which weighs about 150 pounds. All the yarn was donated by Red Heart Yarns.

Crocheters in Colorado, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia are already at work on their state’s part of the project. If you are interested in participating in those projects or getting involved in a project in your home state, find out more on the project website or on Facebook, YouTube, or Instagram.

KATHRYN VERCILLO is the author of Crochet Saved My Life and Hook to Heal. She blogs at www.crochetconcupiscence.com. This item originally appeared in Interweave Crochet Winter 2018.

Featured Image: “Independence is Happiness,” reads the Love Across the USA crochet billboard of Susan B. Anthony, hung outside Sew Green Rochester in New York. Photo by Kerry Bogert.

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