By: Jenna Song
Parkchester, Bronx – The Parkchester Library’s outdoor courtyard is being transformed this summer by vibrant art installations made by library patrons on Sundays and Mondays through the free “Art in the Air” program.
Just months ago, when people visited the library, all they saw was a bland courtyard with a large brownish T-Rex, kangaroo and tortoise statue. Now, they will notice a vibrant courtyard filled with colorful crocheted flowers knotted onto fences; knot balls and large knitted rectangles wrapped around columns; macrame braided and knotted in diamond patterns on tree trunks; vines of ivy hanging from the second floor balcony just above the library entrance; and various crocheted, knit, marcramed, and knot patterns covering the statues.
According to local artist Ruth Marshall who runs the program, the main purpose of the creative art installations is to showcase public art created by the community for its enjoyment. The program is open to people of all ages, genders and skill levels.
Nina Maness, a librarian who runs adult programming at the Parkchester Library, has seen people from nearby senior centers, as well as little kids attending the program. She was surprised to see the wide range of attendees and says, “ it’s really nice to have that intergenerational type of community.”
Ms. Shep, 70, who is a regular at the program says she comes because the projects are “very easy, very simple, very stress-free…[and] it keeps my mind busy. It [also] keeps me focused for two hours and I enjoy the people.” Another regular, 11-year-old Mar, says she came to learn how to crochet and knit.
The artist herself, who teaches newcomers how to make the crafts structured around attendees’ skill levels, has noted that it is not uncommon for people to come in knowing nothing about crocheting but leaving 2 hours later having learned three or four new stitches along with making a flower.
In addition to creating and planning the projects, Marshall is also welcome to ideas from attendees, such as adding a knit pouch made by Mar, or crocheted “glasses” made by Ms. Shep for the kangaroo statue.
All of the crafts are made using a soft, durable nylon cord called paracord. The attendees choose most of the color combinations for their crafts.
According to the library’s website, “This project is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the Bronx Council on the Arts.”