Tunnel of Love Sparks Joy

Amy Mevorach
Issue Date: 
July, 2019
Article Body: 

The blaze of color over the commuter rail bridge in Natick Center was originally sparked by an ember in France.
Artist Denise Girardin was “wasting time on Pintarest” when she saw a rainbow-splashed display of crocheted and knitted flowers pieced together into a blanket. “It was a project done in France, similar to what we did but on a smaller scale. I made it my screen saver.”
At the time, Girardin did not crochet or knit, but “it called out to me.” Eventually she approached Karen Perkins and Fran Weisse who run the Stitchers Group at the Morse Institute Library and asked them if they wanted to help make it happen. “We said yes,” said Perkins.
The project received grants from the Natick Cultural Council, the Natick Center Cultural District, and the Morse Institute Library. Through the Tunnel of Love facebook page, the Natick Moms facebook group and word of mouth, people heard about the project and 113 of them knitted or crocheted flowers or hearts, about 900 in total. 300 to 400 of them came from the Stitchers group, said Perkins. “It was a lot of work in beginning. Denise did a lot of work cataloguing every flower with the name of who made it.”
Six patterns were provided, three crocheting patterns and three knitting, and some people designed their own. “It’s amazing the variety people got from six patterns.”
The flowers were sewn together into panels, the panels were attached to make a 20’ x 28’ blanket, a structure was built by Jeff Olsen and spray painted, and it took five men with a lot of zip ties three hours to hoist it above the bridge where it now waves colorfully in the wind.
The art was installed May 24. “It is so much better than anyone could have imagined,” said Girardin. “An explosion of color. There are always people there, touching it, taking pictures.”
The visual appeal is not the only benefit of the project. “It truly became a community project,” Girardin said. “I’ve lived in Natick for over 30 years. I thought I knew everybody, but I have met so many people.” Perkins agrees. “People were pitching in, willing to help with whatever was needed. People are still adding flowers and dropping them off at the library.”
In August the project will be reassessed. Girardin, Perkins, Weisse and Olsen will seek a winter home for the flowers and decide what kind of blooms they are, annual or perennial. For the summer, visitors are enjoying the burst of color and inspiration. When I stopped to take pictures, three friends – Kelly Fitzpatrick, Molly Devine and Sophia Carvalho – were using it as the background for a photo shoot, and when I called Girardin, she was crocheting.