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Ponnada: Don’t scoff at tree scarves

BY SRI PONNADA | NOVEMBER 15, 2012 6:30 AM

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We’ve heard of dogs wearing hats and cats in tutus, but this November, scarves snuck their way onto trees in downtown Iowa City.

The public-art project  known as Tree Huggers is an innovation of the Iowa City Downtown District that gathered local knitters to create scarves for the trees on the Pedestrian Mall, other parts of downtown, and on the North Side.

What better way to welcome the holidays than by bringing together members of our community and showing some love its green in our otherwise usual party scene?

“The whole point of it was to bring the community together so we would have different people come downtown,” said Joni Schrup, a co-head of the special-events committee of the Downtown District.

Indeed, that’s what the project has done. More than 150 locals of all ages and levels of expertise joined forces to knit scarves for around 135 trees, Schrup said. Even people from other parts of the nation wanted in on this Iowa City venture.

“We had knitters from across the country who wanted to be part of this who knitted up their own tree huggers and sent them to us,” Schrup said. “It just gives a pop of color to downtown. They make people smile.”

Schrup said the type of yarn that was used to knit the scarves is one that is easily laundered. Also, the Home Ec Workshop, which was the source of the yarn, feels confident that once the scarves are removed, they can be laundered and repurposed.

Some community members have scoffed at the idea of knitting scarves for trees — even I have to admit, at first I thought it was a bit silly and outlandish. However, the effect that public art can have on a neighborhood is priceless. Public art increases a community’s assets and expresses a community’s positive sense of identity and values. It also protects and promotes the growth of green spaces and creates an environment that is beautiful and welcoming.

The scarf-sporting woody wonders do in fact make downtown stand out a bit. So those of you out there who are still weighing the worth of this project, it seems like you will just have to wait for the weather to wear down the scarves on the trees. Until then, savor the vibrant vision and smile.


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