Torrington, CT

Contact Name
Judith McElhone
Project Dates
Installation dates - 6/11/16 - 9/10/16
Workshop Leader
Creative Communities Exchange (CCX) 2017
Event, Design, Marketing
The yarn bomb transformed downtown Torrington into a showcase of color, creativity and community collaboration. More than 500 people, ages 2 - 102, actively participated in the creation and installation of yarn based public art. Over 200 sites drew residents and visitors alike to our downtown to view the art and patronize our local businesses.
Project Goals
What were the specific goals of this creative economy project? Describe the community development challenge or opportunity that your project was designed to address:
The goals of this creative economy project include
1. The creation of public dialog and shared experiences related to art and design.
2. To showcase the aesthetic beauty of line, color, texture and form outside a gallery or museum context.
3. To blur the line between “high” and “low” art.
4. To challenge the notion that knitting and crocheting is “only women’s work".
5. To promote inter-generational connections with craft and history.
6. To encourage a further appreciation of the power of the arts to change lives and communities.
7. To bring feet on the street, increase tourism and business opportunities in downtown Torrington.
If the goals change over time, please describe how:
The goals stayed the same, except for the scope of the project. Initially 100 people were targeted to participate. As interest grew, the numbers increased to approximately 500.
Who was involved in this project and what did they do? (be sure to include the partners from outside of the creative sector and how local voices were included):
Our main partners were
1. The City of Torrington - The mayor and administration enthusiastically supported this project. The city provided insurance for the installation and de-installation. Many municipal employees participated in the design and development of the "yarn bombing" of city hall. City firemen helped hang installations from poles and buildings. The mayor's office organized and issued a "selfie challenge" to promote the project.
2. "In Sheep's Clothing" a Torrington fiberarts business offered workshops and design advice throughout the project. Ginger Balch, the owner taped a post installation interview for a local cable programming.
3. Kid'sPlay Museum recruited parents and grandparents and held yarn programs for children
4. Northwest Connecticut's Chamber of Commerce supported and promoted the project.
5. VLC Images helped to document the project
6. Lines & Letters (Torrington - marketing and graphic design
7. Doreen Breen- fiber artist
8. Robin McCahill-fiber artist-(Thomaston)
9. Lenny Purdie Photography, documentation
10. Shirley Metcalf, fiber artist - helped with design and workshops
11. Karen Rossi Studio - held workshops for children and adults
12. Numerous down business in Torrington helped with promotion and marketing as well as participation.

How does this project relate to a larger community development strategy?
This project relates to a larger community development strategy in the following ways
1. Increase feet on the street of downtown Torrington
2. Highlighted the walkability of the newly installed streetscape.
3. Focused attention on Torrington as an emerging arts center
4. Encouraged collaborations between business, municipality and non-profit arts organizations
5. Engaged a diverse community on multiple levels
What projects or places, if any, inspired your approach to this creative economy project?
The initial inspiration of the Yarn Bomb Project occurred when Ginger Balch of "in Sheep's Clothing" asked to hold a "stitch in" at Five Points in June of 2014. The stitch in culminated with them "yarn bombing" the light pole outside Five Points Gallery. Further research culminated in a public arts plan which would engage people of all ages, genders and ability levels. This plan was given the enthusiastic support and approval of the city's administrators, local businesses, civic groups and organizations.
Project Specifics
Please list the steps taken to implement the project:
The project was implemented in the follow manner
1. Research
2. Decision made to make this a community project rather than an artist driven installation
3. Collaborate with city's administration
4. Establish the main partnerships
5. Set the budget.
6. Logo and Marketing strategies formed
7. Seek funding thru grants and donations
8. Planning and mapping of the sites.
9. A power point presentation was designed for informational purposes.
10. Data base established for participants and sites
11. Social Media and website set up
10. Informational sessions were established with businesses, civic organizations, clubs, senior centers, social service organizations, and municipal departments
12. Design and instructional workshops implemented
13. Marketing thru social and print media
14. News outlets contacted
15. Installation day planned and executed
16. Documentation
17. Activities to engage community such as scavenger hunts and art walks planned and executed
18. De-installation planned and executed
19. Follow up and evaluation
If the project steps changed over time, please describe how:
Over time the steps remained the same, but the scope grew as interest increased
What were your major obstacles for the completion of the project?
The major obstacles were
1. Funding
2. Marketing
3. Limited staffing
Who or what was instrumental in overcoming these obstacles?
1. -Funding - Two grants helped with the funding - The Northwest Community Foundation and the state of CT Regional Initiative Grants as well as individual donations.
2. Marketing - Dialogue with print and digital consultants and word of mouth.
3. Limited staffing - Enthusiastic volunteers and interns.
What top three suggestions would you give to others attempting a similar project?
1. Network and partner with the community stakeholders
2. Day to day organization is key
3. Engage as many people, organizations and businesses early on as possible
Project Impact
How has this project strategically connected arts and cultural activities to social, economic, and cultural issues in your community? What is different in your community as a result of this project?
This project contributed to the placemaking and economic development in the following ways.
1. Increased feet on the street
2. Increased tourism
2. Encouraged positive interactions between businesses, municipal employees, educational facilities social and community organizations and the general public.
3. Increased attendance to Five Points events
4. It bolstered Torrington's reputation as an arts community
5. It helped show city officials the positive economic impact that the arts can have on a community

Why do you consider the project successful, as related to your project goals above?
This is a public art project that people of all ages, and ability levels can participate in – no specific artistic ability is needed. Although the Yarn Bomb installation took take place in downtown Torrington, the project aimed for participation throughout the northwest corner and beyond. Everyone from young children to senior citizens were encouraged to participate regardless of race, ethnicity, age, gender, income and ability levels. Convalescent home residents, artists, church groups, businesses, craftspeople, public and private schools, community centers, social service agencies and college students all participated and expressed tremendous enthusiasm for the Yarn Bombing Project. Primarily people from northwest Ct took part, however we did have participants from other cities in CT and others from as far as Virginia and Florida. To quote Torrington Mayor, Elinor Carbone, “this project … is designed to create opportunities to broaden access to arts activities and experiences, as well as deepen participation in the creative process by creating with, rather than for, members of the community.”
How did you measure this success or progress?
The success of the project was measured by
1. Attendance of workshop , Yarn Bombing events and presentations
2. Amount of donated yarn
3. Social media postings
4. Number of calls to Five Points requesting Yarn Bomb information
5. The project team will learn the following through the registration and installation processes
6. Overall number of participants
7. Age range and genders of participants
8 Number of towns represented Business, organizational and municipal support
9. Quantity and quality of installation sites
10. Participant surveys
11. Written testimonials
12. Publicity coverage
13. Number of guided tours
Please describe any unexpected impacts:
The following illustrates something of the impact on individuals
by Willow Dealy
What is a yarn bomb, anyway? It's a form of graffiti consisting of stitchery. Imagine
some little old ladies creeping out at midnight to cover a parked bus with brightly colored
knitting, amazing the eyes of the public in the morning light. However, the Torrington Yarn
Bomb has the blessing of City Hall ~ and their participation, as you can now see from Main
Street! For months, people all over town had been preparing for June 11, the date of
installation. Not only senior citizens were stitching away, so were children in schools,
Scouts, shops, teams, families ... Finally that exciting Saturday came. We of Prime Time
House brought our yarn-work to the Five Points Art Gallery that was coordinating this event.
Noel, the curator, helped us put it up in our chosen spot. She had visited our clubhouse more
than once, teaching us how to finger-knit, giving us yarn & a framework for our banner. With
joy & fun, this was attached to a park bench, & pom-poms were hung on trees overhead, with
the help of 2 men & a truck-sized lift that Noel had procured for us. Elsewhere, lamp-posts
were garbed in bright stitchery, a ballerina danced, butterflies spun on threads, porn-porn
flowers sprouted up, a great jellyfish dangled from a branch, an under-sea scene flowed
across the bridge at the center of town, the mail box grew fuzzy feet, & tree trunks were
wrapped in granny squares. All this despite rainy weather, which then drenched those of us
who hadn't come early enough! But it was a warm day & a happy, fun occasion, & getting wet
was like being a kid again. The atmosphere was of appreciation & congratulation. Now, folks,
take a stroll downtown, over the bridge, through Coe Park - anywhere, but keep your eyes
open. A Starry Night overlooks the intersection of Main, East Main, & Water Street. A huge
peacock graces the building over Warner Theater. What looks like a mermaid is actually a
Selkie, or seal-fairy (according to Scottish legend, if you steal her seal-skin, she will make a
fine, if wistful, wife, but if she gets the skin back, she'll plunge back into the sea, leaving the
husband to pine away). Saint Peter's church boasts a garden of bright flowers. Saint Francis
wears a cloak with fuzzy creatures. A red whale soars through schools of fish in the "Patterson
Aquarium". An orange-haired kid with a frog in her/his pocket climbs an apple tree buzzing
with bees. You'll discover even more during the Torrington Yarn Bomb, which is to last till
September 11.
CCX Workshop Handout