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"After shot of the DC-3 yarn bomb in Whitehorse."
After shot of the DC-3 yarn bomb in Whitehorse.
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"Before shot of the DC-3 yarn bomb in Whitehorse."
Before shot of the DC-3 yarn bomb in Whitehorse.
ARTISANS TAKE ON AN ANTIQUE AIRCRAFT
A collective of Whitehorse “yarn bombers” knit up plane cozy
By Nicole Bauberger
It takes a community to clothe an airplane. It began as a conversation between women and organizations in Whitehorse. Mary Bradshaw, Director of the Yukon Arts Centre Public Gallery, and Casey McLaughlin, Executive Director/Curator of the Yukon Transportation Museum, approached Jessica Vellenga, a fibre artist and member of the Yarn Bomb Yukon Collective, who had been yarn bombing lampposts around town — piecing together knitted covers for public objects.
The Yukon Transportation Museum had a plane they wanted people to warm up to. The DC-3, mounted on a pole outside the museum, right beside the Alaska highway, works as Canada’s biggest weathervane, even if it doesn’t fly anymore. Yarn-clad, it still points to which way the wind blows. Yarn Bomb Yukon invited people to knit or crochet anything, from a granny square to a four- by six-foot blanket. Soon the group had people stitching away at free lessons and sending in donations.
Vellenga credits Whitehorse’s “level of community engagement in the arts” with helping make the project a success. But people took part all across North America, from Lansing, Michigan to Huntsville, Ontario, and from Kent, Ohio to Langley, BC.
Yarn bombing, as a form of gentle and easily reversible graffiti, often occurs anonymously, but stealth wasn’t the plan for this project. A grant from the Yukon Arts Fund helped rent construction equipment for the installation and buy knitting needles and yarn. Volunteers did all the work. Promoting the project also promoted the Transportation Museum. Yarn Bomb Yukon consulted conservators to make sure to treat the airplane with due care, and architect Mary Ellen Read of Northern Front Studio helped them figure out how to make the pattern work. Many different four- by six-foot blankets build up the surface area, and after the cozy comes off the plane, the blankets will be donated to charities.
Panels rolled out along the wings. Strips were laid along the fusillage and sewn together in early August. Then the plane was laced into its garment, like a corset, to avoid sag, and to avoid damaging sensitive parts during the two-week display. The Yukon Arts Centre will host the Canadian Museums Association conference in May of 2013. Their theme is “The Cultural Collaboration.” Vellenga points to this project, “a unique partnership between an artist collective, Transportation Museum, and Public Gallery,” as a prime example of cultural collaboration at work.