Love Across The USA logo designed by Hawaii artist @pro_gress
Crochet artist Olek always makes a statement with her work – not just in the size and scale but also in the subject matter. She has started a community public art project called Love Across the USA “with the goal of celebrating positive women’s voices throughout U.S. history.” There will be installations in all 5o states.
The caption with this photo on Facebook explains: “The moment when Harriet Tubman’s great great grand niece, Pauline Copes Johnson, sees the mural for the first time.”
One of the first installations to be completed is the piece depicting Harriet Tubman, which is now hanging at the Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, New York. Smithsonian explains:
“Olek kicked off the project in March to coincide with Women’s History Month by putting out a call on social media inviting crocheting aficionados and beginners alike to help execute the art installation. After leading multiple crocheting workshops at the center, Olek provided each of the more than 150 volunteers with donated yarn from Red Heart Yarn and a 2-foot-by-2-foot pattern to follow. Once each piece was finished, Olek combined the squares together and created the immense tribute to Tubman.
Olek explains that getting other crafters involved in the project isn’t about making the work easier for her. She could do the work alone in her studio if she wanted to; she has certainly created plenty of large scale crochet installations in the past. However, it was really important to her to collaborate with others, getting the community involved and making this celebration of women’s rights and history something that is an expression of more than just herself. According to Smithsonian, she was happy to see that men also participated in the project, including one father-and-son team.
Susan B. Anthony crochet installation at SewGreen Rochester; photo credit: Patti Blaine of SewGreen@Rochester
Olek decided to start the project in New York because the women’s suffrage movement has history there. In addition to the Harriet Tubman piece, there is an installation in Rochester celebrating Susan B. Anthony. Posts about the project raise awareness about the importance of these women to our history and their relevance to us today.
Poet Mary Gardner wrote a beautiful piece sharing how touched she was when she learned about the project and heard Olek speak. She shares in part, “I found myself feeling lifted up, engaged in something definitely not ordinary. I left the workshop that day in awe of Olek’s powerful presence, compassion and skill and moved by the huge turnout of spirited women come to crochet.”
photo by Patti Blaine of SewGreen@Rochester
As an aside, the Susan B. Anthony piece is located at SewGreen Rochester, which looks like a great place. They operate with two core goals in mind: 1) to “increase the self-sufficiency of Rochester’s young people and adults by teaching them the skills of sewing, knitting, and needlework, and supplying the tools and materials they need at low to no cost” and 2) to “rescue and reuse” fiber and other materials to keep materials out of landfills and provide materials with low impact on the environment.