Hasty removal of tree coat lands city in hot water

The city mistakenly took down an art installation on privately-owned Village trees, and now it’s trying to knit the situation back together.

The “yarn bomb” installation, in which a tree is given a colorful and eye-catching knitted coat, is the brainchild of Studio C owner Elizabeth Carr and Phebie’s NeedleArt. The two Claremont businesses worked in tandem to put up the display in time for Village Venture.

“I had talked to the [Claremont Chamber of Commerce] first, who thought it was a great idea,” Ms. Carr said. “They said, ‘You can do our two trees out in front.’”

The installation, which featured colorful knitting patterns reaching up the main trunk of the trees and into the branches, was installed last Friday on two trees in front of the chamber building. An Instagram post from the Chamber of Commerce shows the handiwork, along with the smiling faces of the artists who put it up.

By the end of the weekend, however, it was taken down—erroneously removed by an employee of the city’s Community Development Department.

“Nobody got in touch with me, nobody called the Chamber of Commerce,” Ms. Carr said. “They came up on Saturday or Sunday and cut it down.”

Chamber CEO Maureen Aldridge reached out to the city on Monday morning when she noticed the artwork gone.

“Obviously the person from the city thought it was city property and she didn’t realize it was private property,” Ms. Aldridge said.

Ms. Carr was devastated by the incident, noting that the artwork was taken down is such a way that it could not be re-attached. “It’s like somebody coming into your gallery and taking a razor to your paintings,” she said.

The city has acknowledged the error, and Director of Human Services Anne Turner pledged to replace the yarn-bombing of the Chamber trees. In addition, the city is set to propose a temporary ordinance allowing the artwork to be displayed on four city-owned trees along Bonita Avenue around Studio C in time for Village Venture.

“We want and encourage public art and we are very excited to put this together,” Ms. Turner said.

A special ad hoc committee of the city’s public art committee will convene Monday to discuss the city’s proposal, which would allow the trees to be decorated from October 22—the day of Village Venture—to November 5.

“I think that should go fine,” Ms. Turner said of the city’s proposal.

City Manager Tony Ramos said the city would “work with the artists and see what it is they want to do, and we could work toward replacing them in time for Village Venture.”

Ms. Carr was taken aback by the response from the city, and noted that the city has pledged to reimburse the artists for any lost materials and funds toward the project.

“They said to give them an invoice and they’ll take care of it,” Ms. Carr said.

In the meantime, the knitters are hard at work on replacement sleeves, and Ms. Carr is thinking about turning to Facebook to recruit knitters to help her with the project.

She has also bought several fake trees to adorn with knitwear, which will be raffled off for charity at Studio C during Village Venture.

“We’re going for raffle tickets,” Ms. Carr said. “The person that draws [the winning ticket] is going to choose where the charity money goes to.”

A third of the proceeds will go to the charity, a third to the gallery and a third to the yarn bomb artists.

—Matthew Bramlett



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