Brenda Shokes is sure people all over the city are going to be wondering why there’s a colorful blanket wrapped around one of the tall, brick chimneys sticking up near the foot of the Ravenel Bridge on East Bay Street.
“It’s going to be seen from the north, south, east and west in this city area,” Shokes said. “And when ... (community members) see these smoke stacks with all these beautiful colors, they’re going to want to come and see why and where. That way I can introduce them to some programs we have to offer here at the community center.”
Shokes is the director of the St. Julian Devine Community Center, which sits just in front of the pair of chimneys on Cooper Street. She worked with the local nonprofit Enough Pie on the so-called “yarn bomb,” a term for public art projects that draw attention to fixtures in the community by wrapping them in knitted material.
The goal is to draw attention to the East Side community center and its programs, which have been underused for several years, according to Shokes. On Friday morning, engineers volunteered to help install the 30-foot yarn bomb using a bucket lift. But the bulk of the effort has been creating the knitted material, which has already helped the center draw in new visitors.
More than 100 volunteers have participated in the weekly knitting circles over the past month, according to Cathryn Zommer, executive director of Enough Pie.
On Monday, about two dozen women were scattered around on the floor at St. Julian’s top-floor room, chatting happily as they hovered over mismatched squares of all colors and patterns. Their task was to stitch together the pieces of knitted and crocheted material into the yarn bomb, which took about 30 hours total over the next few days.
“It’s such a huge community effort,” Zommer said.
Sandy Tecklenburg, Mayor John Tecklenburg’s wife, was among the knitters last week. She said it was the spirit of collaboration that she enjoyed most.
“I love seeing this diversity here in this community center, which I think is a little under-utilized,” she added.
Shokes said the response has prompted other ideas for knitting programs.
“I like knitting because it’s actually bringing people in the community together,” she said. “We’re going to start another project knitting for the Wounded Warrior Project. We’re going to start knitting baby blankets and booties for MUSC.”
Overall, though, Shokes’ new goal is to extend the center’s reach by ramping up its advertising.
For instance, she said the center offers pottery classes with several wheels and a kiln on the second floor.
“Nobody is utilizing it. Even though we advertise it, I don’t think it’s being advertised enough,” she said.
It also has a weight and fitness room, after-school programs and homework help for children. For students, there’s a backpack journalist club for those in the third through ninth grade to learn skills like writing, storytelling and reporting news.
“We want everybody in the surrounding community to know that we are here and we want to make a difference in the year 2016,” Shokes said.
Enough Pie and all the participants of the project will celebrate the achievement with a public celebration called Love Bomb on Sunday at the park surrounding the center.
At the event, local tech company BoomTown will host a silent disco, which is a group dance to music played in wireless headphones rather than an amplified sound system. It’s in conjunction with 1 Billion Rising, a global dance demonstration held on Valentine’s Day as a call to end domestic violence.
Local musician Brendan James will also be at the event to record his latest music video for the single, “Bring My Love Home.”
Zommer, Enough Pie’s executive director, said the community support for this project has been “as good as it gets.”
“It’s just been so amazing that we’ve reached out to so many folks and say, ‘Hey, do you want to come and join us for this community celebration?’ And we just keep hearing ‘yes,’” she said. “It’s been this outpouring of folks that want to participate and be part of it. It’s thrilling.”
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail