To Reimagine Community As Art

I often feel at odds with my love for art and my understanding of the work of justice. There is a lot within the culture of art to criticize: the eliteness, the consumerism, the cost. Even when it comes to the artists who use their art as a platform to speak address issues in society, I find myself wondering, “Is there not a more direct way to address this problem?”

However, despite my cynicism, I cannot deny the authority of art and beauty over humankind. Art draws me in. I enjoy it, I study it, I make my own. Working at a gallery this summer, I have been able to think more about my own views on art. I am learning to appreciate the complexities of beauty and why we humans are so obedient to it. I think that we are drawn to stories of creation: the coming-together of smaller pieces to form a new a larger whole.

The Walls-Ortiz Gallery has a project that demonstrates this artistic coming-together very well. For a while, the gallery hosted weekly yarn circles, where neighbors were invited to knit and crochet together. The beginners learned from the experts, and we all produced various handmade squares of green, blue, yellow and brown yarn. After many were collected, we stitched them all into a patchwork of colorful textures to encase the tree trunks of the young trees growing outside of the gallery entrance.

They call this project the Yarn Bomb and I love the idea of it I love the conversations that the Tree Sweaters have encouraged and I love that people now stop to admire our trees. They give the neighborhood an extra spark of color. Above all these things, I love the Yarn Bomb because each covered tree trunk is proof of community. Just like beauty can be made by the coming-together of smaller pieces, community must be as well. To me, the Tree Sweaters show beauty and community at the same time, in the same way.

To me, this concept of coming-together is redemptive. It gives an immeasurable collective value to each small component, both in a work of art, and in a community. I have not, before this, made a connection between the qualities of art and the qualities of community, but I find both entities essential to the world of faith. I am trying to start looking at community as a manifestation of beauty. It helps me attribute value and dignity to each person involved in an aesthetic kind of way instead of a rational one. It allows me to reimagine the existence of community, like art, as a medium of worship. Like the trees that we dressed in yarn, I want circles of fellowship and faith to enhance the space that they exist in, to add a humble splash of color. How remarkable would it be if passers-by could look at such a community and see the intentional and continuous coming-togetherness of a piece of artwork? Like the pedestrians who admire the trees, I want the beauty that people see in our communities to prompt them to ask, “What is this? And can I help?”

The gallery team celebrating the completion of the Yarn Bomb

Stitching the squares together