Pole-2-Polls hit the streets for the first time in the 2014 fall election. It grew from a public art concept to get out the vote. We were in a yarn-bombing frame of mind and had a lot of knit and crochet material left over from a community made project Knit the Bridge (KtB). So we combined the public art concept with our KtB material. We re-purposed the black railings, as we refer to them, as background and stitched bright colorful letters onto them that spelled Vote! These banners were perfectly sized to yarn bomb utility poles. Our goal was to make as many as possible and yarn bomb along commuter routes throughout the area. So we put the idea out there to the fiberart community and had a terrific response. One of our volunteers graciously allowed us to use her centrally located home as our base of operations. The husband of our organizer coined our name. We created approx 200 signs. We covered approximately 20 city neighborhoods and 10 suburbs and people noticed.
We learned a lot that first election, not everyone is on board with the guerrilla aspect of yarn bombing. So for 2016 we transitioned from yarn bombing to yard signs. We used old polyester knit material (think 70’s 80’s) for the background and stitched our letters onto them and attached the sign to a wire yard sign frame. One of our volunteers donated over 100 frames from a campaign her father ran to start us off. We were invited to base our operations at the Trolley Station Oral History Center in Homewood. We took our show on the road to art galleries, a coffee shop and the fiberart collective. We did the how to on instructable.com to share what we know around the country. We created over 400 signs most of which were given to the Homewood community.
We learned in 2016 that the polyester works well for the backgrounds and any type of cotton fabric works for the letters. The signs are loved by the community for their bright colors, folk appeal and the fact that they are made by hand. The community making of the signs is key to the success of the project. We worked in small groups, some trace letters, some cut them out, some folks design and the last group sews them on. No experience is necessary.
For 2018 the fall election was center stage. We were invited to base our operations at the Brewhouse Association Gallery on the Southside. We learned how important community is during contentious times. We sat and made our signs and felt that although we were in a charged political environment we were putting love in our letters and stitches as we encouraged the most important democratic action, voting. When the tragic event occurred at the Tree of Life, we comforted one another and felt that we were doing something to counteract the forces that embolden hate. Because of the importance of the fall election we resumed yarn bombing in addition to the yard signs. We were invited to teach a workshop at Duquesne University so the students could make their own signs and place them on campus. We were contacted by a graduate student at Carnegie Mellon University who placed signs all over her campus and while yarn bombing we met University of Pittsburgh students who offered to distribute signs there. Finally when we yarn bombed Squirrel Hill the neighborhood where the tragic shooting took place, we heard over and over thank you for doing this it means so much.
So what’s up for 2020? More signs, more signs, more signs. We will begin sooner than we ever have our target date is Spring 2019. We are working on a proposal to bring sign making to more college classes and campuses. We learned at Duquesne that in the making of the signs the students took the opportunity to discuss what it is to vote. Many students had not voted before and told us now they will. We feel the signs can have a great impact in the local college communities. We do not know where we will be based in 2020 but we are on the look out.
We have an amazing group of core makers and many who come and go when they can. There is no pressure, there are no rules just be sure to spell Vote correctly and don’t forget the exclamation point!