Fiber Art Inspires Environmental Activism

Weber Middle School teachers Maria Shapiro and Marilyn Ditoro with students on Main Street collecting tree data. (Contributed photo)

This April, Residents Forward will help Port Washington join countless municipalities around the globe in celebrating Earth Month—igniting an environmental education revolution to save the planet. Under the canopy of fiber artist and community activist Allison White’s Yarn Arms Around Port project—which will span fifty trees from the boulevard to the bay—a series of actions are planned to help residents emotionally connect with trees and their superpower role in taking care of our planet.
“Art creates community, brings people together, and opens space for dialogue and the exchange of ideas,” said Residents Forward Executive Director Trish Class. “We are using Allison White’s brilliant community art project as an opportunity to talk about things like climate change that often feel removed.”
The Yarn Arms Around Port project launched in October, bringing together hundreds of residents to crochet granny squares and “hands,” which have become yarn arm hugs that will be wrapped around fifty trees along Port Washington’s mile-long Main Street for the month of April. The project has been greeted with an outpouring of community enthusiasm and volunteer participation, and valuable assistance and support have been provided by hundreds of individuals, as well as by the Town of North Hempstead, the Port Washington Public Library, Landmark on Main Street, the Art Guild of Port Washington, Be the Rainbow, the Cow Neck Historical Society, Growing Love Community Garden, Hearts PW, Littig House Community Center, the Nicholas Center, the Parent Resource Center, the Port Washington Chamber of Commerce, the Port Washington Children’s Center, Helen Keller National Center, The Knitting Place and Crazy Cakes Cafe.
Sponsors include Alana Benjamin and Frank Ullman with additional donations made via an online fundraiser in honor of White’s birthday.
Residents Forward has planned three initiatives to explore the feelings and learning inspired by this art:
• An “I Love Trees” Video Contest will allow residents of all ages and backgrounds to share why they love trees. Three lucky winners will receive a $100 gift card to a local merchant of choice and be included in Residents Forward’s “I Love Trees” Video Compilation.
• A “Be A Friend to Trees” Interactive Story Time is planned for the youngest members of the community under one of the yarn-armed trees.
• “Hello My Name is…” Tree Labels are being made by Weber Middle School students for each tree, introducing them by name (common and scientific) and sharing the energy they save, the carbon dioxide and pollutants they remove and the stormwater they intercept.
“The ‘I Love Trees’ video project has allowed my students to experience a deeper appreciation of trees and the role they play in supporting the biodiversity of our town,” said Weber Middle School science teacher and Residents Forward board member Maria Shapiro. “In addition to learning the names of some of their favorite trees, they learned that trees provide habitat to living organisms such as fungi, birds and other animals. The organisms in return help the trees by spreading their seeds and fertilizing the soil through decomposition. They learned that the trunks, branches, foliage and roots of trees hold on to carbon and store it, which helps reduce the impact of greenhouse gas emissions. This project fostered a sense of pride in community and awareness of nature. Thank you to Residents Forward for giving young people a chance to learn in such a fun way.”
“Partnering with Residents Forward and having the opportunity to realize my idea of building community through the creation of a fiber art installation as long as Main Street has been an extraordinary process,” added White. “Having this artwork become the catalyst for environmental awareness and education is immensely gratifying. I am grateful to Residents Forward and every single person who has been part of this project.”
To learn more about the Port Washington Yarn Arms project, enter the “I Love Trees” Video Contest or get details about the “Be A Friend to Trees” Story Time this April, call 767-9151 or visit
—Submitted by Residents Forward


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