Downtown Bellefonte Bellefonte , Pennsylvania 16823
It's not very often that you hear about someone standing up at a borough council meeting and asking to bomb the town. But then again, it's not so often that people have the very idea that Sean McCauley had. See, McCauley, Art Director and Designer with Bellefonte's Loaded Creative ad agency, had a radically cool idea not so long ago.
"Mark (Dello Stritto, Loaded Creative's founder) and I gaze out these windows every day and talk about what would be cool or what the town needs," McCauley explains. "I had mentioned yarn bombing a few times over the years because it's temporary, non-destructive, but it transforms objects or whole towns into something else for a time."
And this, people, is how the greatest works of art- even the temporary ones are born- you see. By people staring out the very windows they stare out every single day, daydreaming, until the magic really happens. And by it's very definition, yarn bombing seems EXACTLY the kind of transformational masterpiece that is born when imaginations are allowed to run totally wild.
yarn bomb·ing (noun) - the action or activity of covering objects or structures in public places with decorative knitted or crotcheted material, as a form of street art. "yarn bombing has become increasingly popular as a way to brighten up our surroundings.
It is, and let's be honest, both artful and bold. It's ultra-hip and maybe even a little nuts.
Best of all?
It is coming to Bellefonte.
"I started asking people I knew if they knew anybody who would do it and I immediately had a number of interested parties," McCauley recalls. "I said, '"If I get permission to yarn bomb Bellefonte, will you do it?"'
First Sundays have become a town-wide event this year. What started as the Bellefonte Art Museum's tried and true way to kick off their monthly exhibits each month has spread across downtown every single Sunday of the year. It's been super successful so far, but June's First Sunday (Sunday, June 3rd) will take things to a whole other level. When people hit the streets that morning, they will be seeing downtown Bellefonte in a way that no human being has ever seen it before.
Because beginning Friday and continuing through Saturday, McCauley and his team of spirited volunteers will have Yarn Bombed them. What a lovely thing it will be, too: moving through a town blitzed by color and design.
Think about that in a historical context for a moment if you will. Try and imagine Bellefonte past seeing what we will be able to see. Imagine Governor Andrew Curtin strolling out one morning the 1860's to the sight of it all. Imagine The Mills Brother's grandfather, William H. Mills, looking out of his West High Street barber shop on an early 20th Century afternoon and dropping his jaw at the likes of something that seems nothing short of a fantastical dream.
A little prediction?
This is all going to prove to be a savvy, sly art project, one that awes residents and visitors alike. The shopkeepers will smile. The cops will smile. Kids launching themselves into summer vacation are going to be overjoyed at the unusual joyfulness of it all. And if you don't believe me, well, just take a look at the short but increasingly popular state of Yarn Bombing all over the world. It's been extremely popular over the last decade or so, mainly in major art hubs like Paris and Barcelona, cultured places where open displays of spontaneous creativity are not only tolerated… they're downright adored.
Which, when you really think about it, seems like a mindset that Bellefonte people often have too. This is a town like few others, lucky in ways many are not. Architecture charms us around every corner. Artists are everywhere too; that Bellefonte Art Museum (BAM) is an extremely special place. Brilliant minds, open eyes, excitable spirits, there's a lot of each here in Bellefonte. McCauley recognized that early on.
But look, don't try to give him full credit for his idea. He isn't having any of that. Despite whipping this whole thing up in his head, he humbly insists that he's only a partial player in the Yarn Bombing of Bellefonte.
Before any part of the town could be 'bombed', they needed some big time art. It was going to take an army of knitters. That's when the members of the Knotty Girls knitting group entered the picture. Along with Borough Council member, Melissa Hombosky; area resident, Jess Wilson, and a slew of other talented folks, the Bellefonte-based knitting club have been creating the actual works of art that will soon be seen by a whole lot of people.
Deb Boscaino, who co-founded the Knotty Girls along with local, Joyce Howard, is thrilled to be a part the project.
"Sean McCauley contacted us. We met and he gave us an overview of the project he was planning and wondered if the Knotty Girls would be interested in participating," Boscaino explains. "The Knotty Girls had visited the Bellefonte Museum as a group during one of our knit nights some time ago and the museum's (Gallery Manager) Lori Fisher and I are members of the same church. Who could say "no thanks" to Lori? We jumped at the chance!"
In some ways, the most charming aspect of this whole thing is that there's been such a powerful show of community effort to make it all happen.
"Many of our members are residents or life-long residents of Bellefonte," Boscaino continues. "And I was thrilled to find so many of our members from surrounding areas wanting to participate. Many of our group have knit and/or donated the yarn and special pieces for the project."
Boscaino was right when she mentioned Lori Fisher, too. Fisher who is not only the Gallery Manager at BAM, but also a highly-regarded artist herself, was instrumental in turning McCauley's original vision from daydream into reality. It turns out, she was ecstatic about the Yarn Bombing idea from the get-go.
"Yarn bombing is a brilliant idea and I’m so glad Sean decided to bring me along for the ride," she says. "We learned early on that we both had a passion for bringing art to the streets and that our strengths complimented each other well."
Fisher even helped organize a test run at the museum.
"We yarn bombed the railings, bench, tree, and some other stuff outside the Museum," explains McCauley. "I made tags that hang there explaining what it is and that in June it will be all over town."
But now it's go time. The real thing. The sun is going to set on Saturday night, June 2nd, and when First Sunday kicks off with the first few early birds strolling the streets, coffee in hand, Bellefonte will have changed forever. No no, the Yarn Bombing won't last that long. It will stay up for the month of June; then it'll be systematically removed by the artists who created it. What will last forever though, or at least for a good long time, is the memory of it all.
Your memories. Mine. Our kids. We'll probably be talking about the Great Yarn Bombing of Bellefonte for years to come.
Which is what the best art does. It stays with yo long after the fact, you know?
June 3rd, 2018.
Open your eyes and smile.
What future do you envision for your community, for this town, for Bellefonte, Pennsylvania?
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