Allegheny County Council approves yarning of Warhol Bridge

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Imagine boating down the Allegheny River and seeing, just over the horizon, the Andy Warhol Bridge entirely covered in colorful yarn.

On Tuesday night, the Allegheny County Council voted unanimously to make this image a reality. The group seeking approval, called "Knit the Bridge," is dedicated to yarn bombing the Andy Warhol Bridge from Aug. 10 to Sept. 7.

Yarn bombing is an art movement that covers anything -- including trees, bikes, military tanks, buses and buildings -- in vibrant knitted yarn. Until now, no group in the world has attempted to yarn bomb a bridge this large. This event, if completed, will mark the largest project of its kind ever tackled in the United States.

After the council's approval, the group of dedicated knitters who attended the meeting burst into applause.

"I have no words, I'm thrilled beyond belief," said Kitty Spangler of Lawrenceville after the meeting. "I've been part of this for a year now, and we've been working tirelessly to get their approval. It's a great weight off our shoulders."

Approximately 20 people involved in Knit the Bridge came to show their support for the project. From an art teacher who saw the project spawn a group called the "knitwits" at her school to a representative from the Shuman Juvenile Detention Center, who said the project helped children at the center to be a part of the community, it was evident that the idea had garnered much support throughout Allegheny County. People in 82 percent of the county's townships and neighborhoods are knitting project panels, council was told.

The massive group of supporters includes 1,256 individuals and more than 100 organizations from across the county. These volunteers will create 580 panels, each 3 feet by 6 feet, to drape the length of the bridge.

After the panels are removed, they'll be washed and distributed to homeless shelters, nursing homes and animal shelters.

Not only did the project receive no resistance from the council, it was endorsed as one of Pittsburgh's points of pride by county Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

"We're very excited," Mr. Fitzgerald said. "It's going to be beautiful once it occurs, and it's going to bring us some national recognition."

Some small concerns were raised about the safety and logistics of the project, but all were answered satisfactorily in the eyes of council members. The bridge will be closed during installation but will be open for the majority of the time cloth is draped across the Allegheny River. In addition, Stephen Shanley from the Department of Public Works has approved the safety of the project, and the fabric is not expected to falter in the rain.

Knit the Bridge will not cost the county any money. All $72,000 that they need has come from grants by the Sprout Fund, the Pittsburgh Foundation, colcom foundation, Indiegogo, the Heinz Foundation and others.

Most of the panels will be draped along the side of the bridge, but others will cover the superstructure.

Amanda Gross, a fabric artist from East Liberty, started the project as a chance to celebrate Pittsburgh's bridges and to exemplify the city's burgeoning arts community.

"This is a big milestone," Ms. Gross said. "We're excited to be here, but at this point, we still have a lot of work to do."

Many Knit the Bridge supporters continued knitting throughout the council meeting. Nick Futules, vice president of Allegheny County Council, said their tireless efforts at the end of Mr. Fitzgerald's speech, "This could be the first time we've knitted about 10 blankets during your speech," he said.

Correction, posted June 19, 2013: The quote attribution in the last paragraph has been corrected.

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Monica Disare: First Published June 18, 2013 11:30 PM


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