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City Hall Trees Get Yarn-Bombed to Kick Off New Arts Season

Local fiber artist Suzanne Tidwell has installed a miniature tree yarn exhibition outside city hall to kick off Redmond's 2011-2012 arts season.

Five trees outside  are donning some new winter accessories following the installation of fiber artist Suzanne Tidwell's new Artificial Lights exhibition.

Tidwell, a Sammamish artist well known for "yarn bombing" trees, poles and other public objects around the Puget Sound region, installed the display earlier this week to kick off Redmond's 2011-2012 arts season. On Thursday afternoon, she joined VALA Eastside in leading a discussion about her work and the city hall exhibition.

Each of the five yarn pieces, also known as "tree socks," is made of 1,000 rows of hand-knitted yarn in bright colors. The color scheme and name of the exhibition is intended to bring a burst of color to the Northwest winter landscape, Tidwell told a crowd of about 25 who attended the presentation.

"I'm trying to create these as individual sunshines," she said.

The trees will be illuminated in the evening with bright red lights, Tidwell said.

Joshua Heim, the city's new arts administrator, said Redmond's Arts Commission discovered Tidwell through VALA Eastside, a Redmond-based organization that seeks to connect local artists to the community by providing venue space and arranging information sessions.

Heim said Tidwell's exhibition fit in well with the theme of this year's arts season: "Take Root, Branch Out," a slogan that also ties into the city's centennial celebration for 2012.

"(It's) sort of our way, the arts' way, of exploring the pioneering spirit," he said.

The tree socks outside city hall are just a preview of a larger Artificial Lights exhibition Tidwell will install at next spring. The city hall trees will remain yarn-adorned through February.

While speaking about her work, Tidwell acknowledged that some people are not initially receptive to the idea of a natural landscape being turned into a multi-colored art exhibition. In Sammamish, a larger installation of Tidwell's tree socks among several residents and community leaders.

Tidwell told those gathered at Redmond City Hall on Thursday that getting people to discuss the artwork goes along with the main intention of the project—forcing passersby to stop, think and talk about their surroundings.

The question of whether her work is in fact art used to be somewhat offensive, Tidwell said, but she is no longer bothered by it.

"I love that—I love sparking that conversation," she said.

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Tidwell is a Seattle resident.

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