After the tragedy on the 4th of July last summer during Highland Park’s annual holiday parade, Lake Bluff’s Gretchen Seymour wanted to do something to make things better.
“I think, like everyone, I felt compelled to help in some way,” Seymour says. “I wanted to bring people together, build community, at a time when so many people were hurting.”
Seymour, an avid knitter, decided to knock on the door of Art Impact Project, a non-profit organization located in Lake Bluff that offers emotional support opportunities through art to anyone who may need it.
“Art Impact was the perfect organization to host this effort called ‘Knitting Communities Together,'” Seymour says.
Knitting Communities Together was an all-ages, multi-town art project aimed at bringing joy, comfort, and camaraderie to the residents of Highland Park and its neighboring communities. Through the therapeutic and community-building process of knitting, they called on residents of Highland Park and the surrounding communities to come together to knit or crochet colorful yarn creations over the course of six weeks, culminating in a colorful and collaborative art installation in Highland Park’s Sunset Woods Park that will remain in place through Labor Day weekend. The leads on this project were: Gretchen Seymour, Art Advocate for the Art Impact Project; Vickie Marasco, founder at Art Impact Project; James Lynch, Executive Director at The Art Center of Highland Park; and Roxanne Hejnowski, Executive Coordinator of the Highland Park Park District.
“I could barely sleep the nights leading up to our installation, wondering if we’d made enough to wrap around the trees and worried that our knitting wouldn’t have the visual impact I had hoped it would,” Seymour says. “But at some point I realized that the installation was just a happy byproduct of us all coming together and sharing our stories while we knit.”
While some participants worked through their grief that came as a result of the shooting, others made unexpected friendships.
“There were two women who came to every one of our knitting sessions and met because this group was formed,” Seymour says. “They became the best of friends–even exchanging ‘friendship knitting needles’ as a souvenir of their time together. Even though this particular project is over, I am sure they will find reasons to continue to meet.”
Dozens of people gathered to help install the finished scarves around many of the park’s trees on June 29, so many that the Art Impact Project’s founder Vicki Marasco is already dreaming up new ways to continue the momentum of the “Knitting Communities Together” effort.
“I’m not sure what will come next,” Marasco says. “But there will be more for sure.”
To learn more about Art Impact Project, you can visit their website. Sunset Woods Park is located at 1801 Sunset Road in Highland Park, IL.