So, here’s what happens when you give 1,820 people in Pittsburgh some yarn and a hell of an awesome idea.
I mean, seriously. As if it was possible for Pittsburgh to get any more creative (because this town rocks the creative department), we decided to knit the bridge.
“Knit the Bridge” was a grassroots, community-led arts project that brought the many diverse communities of Pittsburgh and Southwestern Pennsylvania together to create a large-scale, aesthetically stunning, fiberarts installation on the Andy Warhol/7th Street Bridge.
This wasn’t a permanent thing, although I imagine that to the 1,870 volunteers working on 580 handmade knitted and crocheted panels for more than 14 months, it probably felt like the big day would either never get here or that the work would never end.
But Knit the Bridge went up August 12 and immediately it became the talk of Pittsburgh.
And the entire world.
This made the news in different countries.
Which happened to be the message of the whole project.
Pittsburgh has been described as a city of neighborhoods, and that it most certainly is. It reminds me of my hometown of Philadelphia that way (even though most natives would probably cringe at the comparison) and it’s probably one of the reasons why this city has grown on me as quickly as it has. Pittsburgh is also, in very many ways, a very “provincial” town. Knit the Bridge was designed to bring all of Pittsburgh together.
(This was one of my favorite panels on the bridge. To me, this one was so symbolic of Pittsburgh’s many communities, with the river as part of it.)
I’d been wanting to go downtown and see the bridge since the unveiling on August 12. We were lucky weather-wise; we’ve had some spectacular days here in recent weeks, which made Pittsburgh look even more vibrant than usual (if that’s even possible). The weather really could not have been timed more perfectly for this project. Even during several thunderstorms, everything held up beautifully. (Volunteers monitored the bridge 24/7 and posted updates on social media.)
Friday, September 6 was the very last day that Knit the Bridge would be up. (The blankets would then be taken down, laundered, and distributed to the homeless and charitable organizations.) Early that morning, I was at a networking event near the bridge and afterwards, I decided to drive over and see it in person.
A couple things about those photos of me, especially the second one.
1. That photo isn’t staged. Or PhotoShopped. Or retouched or edited or anything like that. I really am sitting on the side of the bridge. The sky was really that blue.
2. I didn’t stop traffic. (Me, stopping traffic. C’mon, let’s get real.) This was at 10:45 a.m. on a Friday morning in Downtown Pittsburgh. Apparently, most people had other things to do.
3. People are friendly here. Really friendly. So friendly that it’s entirely plausible to see two sisters taking selfies on the bridge and you (that would be me) ask them if they want you to take their picture. Which I did. And then they offered to take mine. Which answers my husband’s question of who, exactly, took the pictures of me obviously having a real good time on the bridge.
4. It practically begged to be used as my new blog header. I love my chair and stop sign picture (and always will) but this captures so much of what I want this new self-hosted site to be about, how I feel about Pittsburgh, and how I’d like to be viewed here.
Anyway. Let’s move on because there IS definitely more to see here. (All of the photos in this post were taken by me.)
Go green, Pittsburgh!
This one gives new meaning to the term “bleeding black and gold.” Go Steelers!
…and the Pittsburgh Pirates. In the background of this one is PNC Park, home of the (say it with me, boys and girls) FIRST PLACE IN BASEBALL AND WINNING TEAM FOR THE FIRST SEASON SINCE 1992 PITTSBURGH PIRATES!
To me, this one symbolized the rivers ….
one of which (the Allegheny River) can be seen through the railing, which is usually yellow but is covered in black yarn sleeves. (Or whatever the technical term is.)
Another one of my favorite panels. I love this.
I think this may be one of my very favorite photos I’ve ever taken.
Because there was just so much love there on the bridge and, during the weeks that Knit the Bridge was up, in Pittsburgh itself. You could feel it. Knit the Bridge boosted the spirits of this city. It made people happy.
OK, the Pirates are definitely helping too. And the good weather. But who can’t help but smile at 580 brilliantly colored blankets on a bridge when half the country can’t find a damn job while we’re on the verge of invading a country that most of us couldn’t have found on a map until our Facebook feed educated us on how clueless we were.
Like I mentioned, Friday was the last day for Knit the Bridge. I had been listening to U2 in my car while driving (and yes, “Beautiful Day” really did come on AS I DROVE OVER THE BRIDGE, I KID YOU NOT) and this couple made me think of the lyrics to “Walk On.”
And I know it aches
And your heart it breaks
You can only take so much
Leave it behind
You’ve got to leave it behind
All that you fashion
All that you make
All that you build
All that you break
All that you measure
All that you feel
All this you can leave behind.
Knit the Bridge was meant to be shared and enjoyed, so I made a pitch for us to go Downtown as a family to see it on Friday night. I only had one taker. Betty knew I was going to stop by after my event and when she got home from school, it was decided: we were going.
I knew this was something she’d probably always remember. The time when she and Mommy walked along the knitted bridge. You don’t see – or do – that everyday.
So, we did. We went. A stranger hugged me, completely out of the blue. We talked about girl stuff. And autism. (We think the stranger may have been on the spectrum.) Betty made a video of the bridge, catching a much-too happy passenger of a pleasure boat on the Allegheny in the process. (Let’s just hope twerking on the Allegheny doesn’t become a thing.)
And then it really was time to leave it all behind.
Take a bow, Knit the Bridge volunteers. And thank you so very much.