Taking Over the World with Yarn

Local artists honor powerful women in collaboration on Olek’s ‘Love Across the USA’

by Noor Hindi

When Cindy Michael picked up a ball of yarn at 10 years old and accidently taught herself how to crochet, she didn’t realize it would become an obsession. Today, Cindy doesn’t remember why she picked up the ball of yarn, or who exactly taught her how to crochet. She only remembers that a long car ride to visit relatives was made shorter by the simple of act of creating a string of loops with her fingers.

Nowadays, Cindy carries her yarn with her everywhere she goes, crocheting everything from hats to warm sweaters.

Oh, and there’s the 20-feet by 40-feet mural she’s creating completely out of yarn.

“This is really a great opportunity to show the world that yarn can be so many more things than a blanket and a hat.”

The mural will come to life with the help of internationally recognized fiber artist, Olek. When Olek visited The Akron Art Museum last year to help with an installation, she shared with Cindy her new project, Love Across the USA. The project hopes to celebrate powerful women who have helped shape the history of the United States through murals placed in every state.

“Olek is amazing. She’s just this powerful person, very outspoken about women’s rights. She feels that women aren’t heard, and she really struggles because her medium as an artist is not taken seriously.”

So far, Love Across the USA has done murals of Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and Nina Simone. Olek’s project started with her creating an #ImWithHer mural of Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election period.

“[Olek] is going to take over the world with yarn.”

The subject of the Love Across Akron mural will be kept secret until it’s unveiled in late May.

Cindy and her team, Mary Oliver Bethel, Jennifer Davis and Sarah Mckee are hard at work trying to raise money to match their 2017 Knight Arts Challenge grant of $16,000 from the James L. Knight Foundation by March 1. Once raised, the team will be scouting the community for people to help crochet for the mural.

Cindy says this is a perfect time to be celebrating women, especially with the #MeToo movement gaining so much solidarity on social media.

“It’s a very important time for women to stand up and demand to be noticed and recognized for their accomplishments.”

To help raise funds, The Cartwheel, a local arts initiative led by Jennifer Davis and Mary Oliver Bethel, organized a HeART Strings fundraiser at Compass Coffee. For $25, event attendees were given supplies to create their own HeART String using a sketch of Ohio.

The mural will be placed in Lock 3 and will represent the entire state of Ohio. The City of Akron is hoping to have it up for about a year, but Cindy isn’t sure if the yarn will be able to withstand the weather. Since Olek hasn’t done many of these murals, it’s tough to say whether or not they’ll be able to use the string after the mural is torn down.

Despite this, Cindy is excited about the location and hopes that those who see the mural will celebrate the subject’s life and research her accomplishments.

“This woman was badass. The more I read about her, the more I’m amazed by her and what she was able to accomplish in the time that she was alive.”

Help Cindy, Jennifer and Mary reach their goal of $16,000 by donating to their project here: bit.ly/2jmJwD6

Learn more about Love Across Akron by visiting their Facebook page @LoveAcrossAkron.

Learn more about Love Across the USA by visiting loveacrosstheusa.com.

(Photo of Nina Simone mural by Olek)

(Photo of Hillary Clinton #ImWithHer mural by Penn Eastburn)