Samantha Weigel/Daily Journal
John Schrup, president of United American Bank, helps Lorna Watt, downtown San Mateo’s artist in residence, pull together a yarn tree sock on Third Avenue yesterday morning.
Traditional ornaments and Christmas lights will seem old school when compared to the new festive decor with which the streets of downtown San Mateo are being adorned.
Local artist Lorna Watt and a team of volunteers are taking to the streets to yarn bomb 30 Third Avenue trees.
Some of Watt’s yarn bombed endeavors included knitting cozy socks for mailboxes in front of the post office, turning a B Street magnolia tree into a giant squid, revamping old parking meters and covering graffiti ridden utility boxes.
“We like to think of public objects, and imagine how we can transform them in a new way,” Watt said.
What started out as a sneaky guerrilla-style hobby, Watt’s creative adornment of public objects in the area led the Downtown San Mateo Association to reach out and join in the fun, Watt said.
In April, she was asked to become the DSMA’s artist in residence and commissioned to provide locals and visitors with eye-catching public art, Watt said.
“It’s so great to have [Watt] as our artist in residence, she’s making magic in downtown,” said Nancy Bush, president of the DSMA board of directors.
Watt and local volunteers began installing the colorful knitted tree-sweaters on Monday and will be continuing through 11 a.m. today. She and her sister Jill Watt used a loom to knit about 40 miles of yarn donated by the United American Bank, Watt said. Each sweater took about an hour to pre-knit and another half-hour to install, Watt said.
Volunteers from DSMA, United American Bank and the community at large stepped up with crochet hooks in hand to yarn bomb in some holiday cheer.
“I think people will view this as something very unique. It kind of differentiates us with décor from other cities and points out some of the vitality of the downtown area,” said John Schrup, president of United American Bank.
Collaborating with the city and public on installation projects highlights the San Mateo art scene and raises awareness about the talent that resides within the city, Watt said.
“It’s unbelievable how many people are getting involved … it enhances the neighborhood and people feel a sense of community from it,” Watt said.
Becky Sankauskas is a San Mateo resident who’s kept up with Watt’s creative installations over the past year. She passed by yesterday and was thrilled to watch them yarn bombing and for the chance to speak with the artist.
“You’re making our day. I love watching the process,” Sankauskas told Watt. “The whole city is getting a cheer-up.”
The public appreciates these commissioned installations that unexpectedly pop up around downtown. Plus, with the rise in public approval, the city is investing more in the artistic community and deterring against graffiti, Watt said.
“What’s so cool about it is it’s so old school, it’s urban graffiti … but it’s not a couple of clowns with a spray can, it’s well thought out and it helps with the beautification of the city,” Sankauskas said.
The DSMA is pushing forward with sprucing up the streets Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon with a group of volunteers from College of San Mateo joining for a service project to clean windows, pick up litter and gussy up the streets for the holiday season, Jessica Evans, executive director of the DSMA, wrote in an email.
Word of Watt’s unique projects and their ability to connect to the community led the Monterey Bay Aquarium to reach out, Watt said. It’s considering commissioning her to yarn bomb squid trees in San Francisco to advertise for a summer exhibit, Watt said.
“It’s something people really respond to, they like to interact with it,” Watt said. “Not everybody gets to say that about their art. It’s been really rewarding.”
For more information about Lorna Watt visit knitsforlife.com. For more information about DSMA visit dsma.org.
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