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The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) on the Miracle Mile is standing out these days — not simply due to its exhibits, but a bright assortment of fabric squares that have taken over the building’s façade.
As part of “Granny Squared”, a public art installation that will be on display from Sunday to Sept. 8, CAFAM has been “yarn-bombed” by Yarn Bombing Los Angeles (YBLA), an organization that aims to erase the hierarchy between fine art and craft.
Arzu Arda Kosar, of YBLA, spearheaded the project, which she said started as a joke. YBLA meets at CAFAM, and during a meeting, members were discussing the museum’s architecture, and how it looks like it’s from another place.
“It’s almost like Hansel and Gretel’s house or something,” Kosar said, adding that YBLA members began brainstorming how to make it look more “toy-like” and visually shrink the structure. “It is beyond what we envisioned it would look like.”
The organization started the project by making a worldwide call for granny square submissions. Granny squares, as they are called in the knitting circuit, are crocheted or knitted squares made by working outward. YBLA received 15,000 granny squares from people all over the U.S. and 25 countries.
“We really didn’t think that many people would jump on board,” Kosar said.
The response resulted in a surplus that will be used to make blankets for the homeless on Skid Row. Organizers had planned to wash the yarn used to decorate the CAFAM façade and make the fabric into blankets, but the large amount of five-inch granny squares allowed them to make new blankets, Kosar said.
Further, YBLA will take some of the blankets to the Downtown Women’s Center, where clients make figurines and sell them. Kosar said YBLA members are in the process of designing a product that the center’s clients can also reproduce and sell.
“It’s a deeper relationship than just giving them blankets,” she said.
However, YBLA is still in the process of creating the blankets, and a series of public workshops continues. They are held from 2 to 5 p.m. every third Saturday at CAFAM, 5814 Wilshire Blvd.
Yarn Bombing Los Angeles is in its third year, having started as a series of street events. Originally operated as Have Yarn, Will Travel, the organization started out of the Arroyo Arts Collective, which covered street items with yarn materials during an event in 2011.
“I thought it was just amazing,” Kosar said.
Following that event, she organized an event near her studio in Santa Monica to decorate street items with yarn materials. Kosar said she requested submissions and received items from as far as Spain and Australia.
“It ended up being really huge, really colorful,” she added.
Through those events, yarn bombing enthusiasts organized and began working on other projects. Following the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, artists created a giant red dot to place in Little Tokyo, Kosar said.
What really solidified the effort, though, was an Art in the Streets event at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Kosar said the group assumed that the exhibitions would be almost exclusively spray paint, so they parked their cars in a lot facing the entryway and yarn-bombed their own cars. She said one participant decorated a car to look like a cloud, and played a CD of rain music throughout.
“Some people got ridiculously creative,” Kosar said.
She said she enjoys yarn bombing because it connects with a segment of society that may not go to museums. It doesn’t deface public property, but it does add color and texture in an aesthetically pleasing way, Kosar said.
“I’m personally interested in this because I’m interested in street art,” she said.
The partnership between CAFAM and YBLA has been mutually beneficial. CAFAM exhibitions manager Sasha Ali said she was pleased that YBLA chose the museum, as opposed to a different campus along Museum Row.
“There’s definitely been a lot of collaboration with YBLA,” she said. “It’s been a really good connection. It’s kind of an obvious sort of relationship also.”
Ali said YBLA members played off of the architecture at CAFAM to uplift what is sometimes considered to be a lowly form of craft by having it interplay with architecture, a very high form of craft and expression.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I think any sort of public installation is always a great idea.”
“Granny Squared” will open to the public on May 26, as will two CAFAM exhibits: “This Is Not A Silent Movie: Four Contemporary Alaska Native Artists” and “Sonya Clark: Material Reflex”.
“I think they’re very strong,” Ali said of the new exhibits. “I’m very excited about them. Both of them really address notions of race and identity in very potent and unexpected ways, with a lot of traditional materials related to craft being used in contemporary ways. …I think a lot of the exhibitions that we’re doing … are very cutting edge. We’re doing things that a lot of larger institutions are averse to doing.”
For information, call (323)937-4230, or visit www.cafam.org.
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