Suzanne Tidwell's Artificial Light installation to brighten up Redmond's Anderson Park
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
February 24, 2012 · Updated 10:06 AM
The weather forecast may call for gray skies and overcast for the foreseeable future, but brighter days are in store for Redmond's Anderson Park at 7802 168th Ave. N.E.
Now through June 3 the park will play host to Artificial Light, an art installation by fiber artist Suzanne Tidwell.
Since last Saturday, the Sammamish resident has been fitting knitted sleeves around trees at Anderson Park with the goal of outfitting 50 trees by March 8. Tidwell said she uses a "hot color palette" in colors that represent light for the brightly striped sleeves, which have also been called "tree socks" and "tree cozies," to create a "sun" with each tree.
"The brighter the better," she said.
A COLORFUL WINTER
Tidwell said Artificial Light is a way to bring a bit of color into the community during the drab Northwest winter days.
Peggy McMahon agrees.
"It brightens up the winter," the Redmond native and longtime resident said.
McMahon and her friend Karen Drew, who both live in the Emma McRedmond Manor apartment complex across the street from Anderson Park, were out walking late Wednesday morning when they came across Tidwell while she was working on her art installation.
The three women struck up a conversation about the project with McMahon and Drew questioning Tidwell on her work process as well as offering compliments.
"It sure is different," McMahon said. "I like that."
Drew added that having such a public art display is also a good way to get people talking and build community as people will start asking their neighbors, "Did you see (the Artificial Light installation)?"
CONNECTING WITH THE COMMUNITY
Cathy Heidener also approached Tidwell while she was working Wednesday morning.
The Bothell resident works at Serial Knitters Yarn Shop in Kirkland and just happened to be driving by Anderson Park. She said knitting has become trendy but a lot of people tend to just knit scarves, which can be a bit utilitarian. Heidener said seeing Tidwell's installation shows people how fun and creative knitting can be.
She added that while most people driving or walking by will enjoy Artificial Light for its visual appeal, people who knit or do any other handcraft will also recognize the work that went into the project.
"It's a fun nod to the craft," Heidener said.
Tidwell said her favorite part about Artificial Light is getting to talk to passersby while she works on the installation. She said she especially enjoys hearing from longtime residents who share stories about how the area's history.
Jessica Lambert, founder of Venues for Artists in the Local Area Eastside (VALA Eastside), said getting the community to connect with art and artists like this was one of the goals of Tidwell's installation.
Lambert helped bring Tidwell and Artificial Light to the City of Redmond, presenting the artist and installation to the Arts Commission. She said Tidwell was a good fit for the city because nature plays such a significant role in Redmond and Tidwell integrates nature in her art.
"She's a fiber artist," Lambert said. "Instead of using paintbrushes and canvases, yarns are her brushes and the world is her canvas."
Lambert said VALA Eastside is working with Tidwell on community outreach, facilitating a number of events in Redmond to connect Tidwell with the public.
These events include a March 8 Business After Hours event at Flying Apron Cafe at 16541 Redmond Way, Suite E. The event will be sponsored by the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce and be from 5-7 p.m. and feature VALA Eastside.
There will be two Knit-In events at Anderson Park March 10 and 17 from 2-7 p.m. Attendants will learn more about the history of fiber arts and can knit stripes to contribute to community tree sleeves.
Tidwell said she hopes to have enough participation to create 10 additional sleeves.
Thinkspace at 8201 164th Ave. N.E., Suite 200 will host a Wine Wednesday event March 14 from 5-7 p.m. featuring VALA Eastside and Tidwell. In addition, Ben Franklin Crafts and Frames at 15756 Redmond Way will host a VALA Eastside-sponsored Artist to Artist networking event on March 29 from 6-8 p.m. with Tidwell.
While Artificial Light is making its debut in Redmond, the installation made its first appearance in Sammamish in December 2010.
Tidwell said the City of Sammamish had cut down a group of diseased trees located at a busy intersection in town. However, the trees were not completely removed and what remained were these roughly 20-foot-tall tree stumps. No one knew what to do with them so Tidwell petitioned the city and asked if she could knit sleeves for the stumps. It took about six months before she received a response and while she was approved, the project was met with resistance in the community because she described the city as a world of beige and creams in contrast with the bright colors of Artificial Light.
"It's just a very restrictive community," Tidwell said. "They didn't feel like (Artificial Light) belonged there."
Instead of being discouraged by this response, Tidwell loved it. She said as an artist, not everyone will like what you do and it's better to have people love or hate your work rather than feel nothing at all.
"It's kind of great that I got that response," she said about the resistance in Sammamish.
Artificial Light has also been installed in Seattle's Occidental Park and City Hall Park.
Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at email@example.com or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.