Members of Highlandtown community test their knitting skills on the new benches on S. Conkling St. Materials were provided by Baltimore Threadquarters. - Photo by Matthew Saindon
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Last Wednesday, the Southeast Community Development Corporation unveiled a new public space in front of Baltimore Threadquarters, a fiber arts store on S. Conkling St.
The pop-up public space, based on the needs of community members who attended a place-making workshop last spring, consists of three wooden benches constructed around beautifully “yarn bombed” street trees: an urban, arty analog of a park bench under a tree canopy.
“When we did the place-making workshop last spring, people said the intersection of Conkling and Eastern had ‘too much brick, too much brown, and not enough light,’” says Kari Snyder, director of community programs for the SECDC.
“They also wanted a place that was comfortable and shaded. The idea is to make the space a place where people will enjoy hanging out,” Snyder adds.
The benches, which are circular, encourage face-to-face conversation, and the yarn-bombed trees are dressed in crocheted pieces made by local residents.
The yarn bombing is more than a pretty alternative to the monochromatic, gritty hues of the street corner, says Marlo Jacobson, co-owner of Threadquarters.
Jacobson likens the crocheted yarn bomb to “crochet and knit graffiti,” an art form.
“Its practitioners create stunning works of art out of yarn, then weave them into public spaces creating vibrancy and stimulating community dialog,” she says.
“We have already seen the transition taking place. People have been very respectful of the trees, and when we were putting up a new tree, we heard many thank yous and positive comments from people.”
Snyder notes that the benches are temporary, but will remain installed at least through the end of the summer.
“Permanent benches are a lot more expensive, but if the residents like the space, we will work on funding permanent seating,” Snyder says.
She adds that the SECDC plans to host public events—such as an ice cream social—in the space this summer.
“If residents have ideas for events, we want to hear them,” she says.
Snyder believes that the new space is already having a positive impact on the neighborhood.
“The moment we put the benches out, a woman sat down to read the paper. That’s great. That’s what we want. It’s all about the user experience.