Monticello Road is a community arts project in Charlottesville, Virginia. Through photography and a series of public events and conversations, we explore how an art can be an essential, integral and everyday part of a healthy community.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Art is a Gift

My mother used to knit hats for the homeless, so I was delighted when I saw that someone is also looking after the cans where they forage and the trees under which they sleep.

UPDATE: Hear about the piece in this NPR report.

My friends Jen and Bill are organizing a series of events and happenings back in New York that explore many aspects of the relationship between art, artist, and society. One big question they are discussing is where art aught to sit on the continuum between gift and commodity. Clearly art can be either or both, but I really love when art is a gift that is freely given. I joined the conversation yesterday and I was very quickly treated to a very fine example.

When I got into the studio this morning, my neighbor Robin asked if I had seen the sleeve on a tree in the nearby park. I had no idea what she meant so I went and investigated. Turns out that someone had knitted or crocheted an arm-warmer for one of the wonderful trees in Lee Park and also a cozy sweater for a nearby trashcan.

None of us could figure out who made them but I'm sure glad they did!

They are scruffily beautiful and possess all kinds of critical merit, such as their commentary on the homeless who spend their days on the nearby benches. They are delightfully absurd and quite unexpected--and "out there" in every sense. They belong to everyone, without even the artist herself coming between the art and the viewer. There is no label, signature, website, artist statement, or gallery to contact.

They sit in a public space where all kinds of people walk, with no velvet rope to pass or white box to penetrate. It will be interesting to see how long they last--Robin says it's been a week so far and everyone I saw seemed to love them.

This is a successful and and unmediated gift, pure and bestowed without reservation, and transformative, like good art should always be. Like many handmade gifts, its greatest virtue is simplicity. If you would like one of your own, go ask your grandmother.

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