‘Yarn Bomb’ art installation adds color to downtown Walnut Creek

Project supports local businesses hit by pandemic


Kate Rollins

Walnut Creek has 25 yarn-wrapped trees for its “Yarn Bomb” downtown art project.

Splashes of color have been spotted in downtown Walnut Creek in the form of yarn art decorating trees and sculptures. A variety of colorful yarn is wrapped around the trunks and branches of 25 trees, forming bright, abstract art. 

This art is also called “yarn bombing,” because it is done secretly, like graffiti. Its purpose is to invite people to come downtown to shop and patronize restaurants to support the businesses (in safe fashion) during the pandemic, according to project organizers.

Jane Emanuel, a Bedford Gallery docent and member of the Arts Commission in Walnut Creek, said this project was not actually done secretly, but in a well-coordinated city arts effort to brighten the downtown area. “I asked a few people who I knew that could knit or crochet and they passed on the message to friends. We were on our way,” she said. 

Individuals who for the most part didn’t know each other spent August through October knitting and crocheting pieces of art that would brighten trees along the streets of the downtown area.

Emanuel said many of the volunteers in this project were senior citizens, as not very many young people know how to knit these days. “However, no volunteers were turned down, and a few grandchildren even showed up because their grandparents had taught them how to knit,” she said. 

When the knitting turned into action, volunteers wrapped 25 trees with colorful decorative styles and themes. Volunteers passed the message to friends, and the number of volunteers grew with the collaborative tasks of measuring, designing their own original art and wrapping the trees. 

The purpose of this project was to invite more people downtown to support the businesses that have suffered during the pandemic, said volunteer Adrienne Rogers, also a Bedford Gallery docent. The intent was to “create a happy atmosphere in downtown Walnut Creek and encourage people who had been locked down to return and support the merchants,” Rogers added.

One design brought to life is crocheted masks, a bow tie and sweater for the popular Bull-Man and Bulldog sculpture located at the corner of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and North Main Street. One tree is bedecked with skunk, centipede and bumblebee designs.

Another project created for this project is a Wishing Tree. On North Main Street, volunteers set up a Wishing Tree where passersby can pick a tag, write a wish on it, and tie it on the crocheted wrap on the tree. Take a moment to read the other wishes. 

During the installation of this public art, bystanders encouraged and cheered the volunteers and told them how much they liked the art. “It felt really good that such a small thing can bring joy to so many,” Emanuel said.

Two Northgate students took in the displays while spending time downtown the afternoon of Oct. 21, and stopped for some selfies and pictures. 

“I love the yarn art on the trees because it adds a pop of color to the downtown scenery,” junior Nicole Jenkins said.

“It’s a really creative way to brighten up the downtown,” Mimi Swanson added.

One community volunteer noted that it took three weeks for their particular group to complete their yarn art and wrap a tree, but that overall planning, organizing, and gathering volunteers took several months. 

“Everyone was encouraged to create their own design and method,” volunteer Adrienne Rogers stated. She added that volunteers not only found the project to be fun, but they also found the knitting to be meditative and helped them feel calm and relaxed.

 In addition, organizers hope pedestrians notice the public art sculptures downtown. The accompanying public art signs highlight a phone number which, when dialed, reveal a recorded story about the specific art piece. 

“The yarn bombs will be up throughout the pandemic for everyone to enjoy,” Emanuel said. “Downtown is a wonderful place to see sculptures, mosaics, murals and now trees that bring cheer to the residents.”