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Guerilla knitters “yarn bomb” sculpture on Oakland-Berkeley border

on May 30, 2010

In southernmost Berkeley, the Richmond BART emerges from its subterranean track with a ghostly howl and trundles into Oakland, elevated above Martin Luther King Jr. Way. On an abbreviated bit of greenery at the intersection of Adeline and MLK, in the shade of youthful evergreens, powder-coated steel-plate capital letters spelling out the words “HERE” and “THERE” stand eight feet high.

The public art piece is a riff on a Gertrude Stein quote, who famously said of Oakland, “There is no there there.” Stein was referring to the disappearance of her childhood home, but the quote has been turned into an epithet against Oakland. An artist subsidized by the City of Berkeley installed the sculpture in 2005.

Right now, the “T” in THERE is wearing a colorful, hand-knitted suit—a patchwork of blues, greens, reds, and yellows. Last month, the T was “yarn bombed” in the dead of night by a group of local knitters affiliated with the international organization KnittaPlease, which has committed acts of “knit graffiti” in cities around the world and boasts the motto “we knit graffiti.” The local chapter of anonymous guerilla knitters cozied up the T in a bit of wry commentary about East Bay identity.

“You can see it as commentary, you can see it as art, you can see it as a lot of things,” said Emily Jan, an Oakland-based artist, designer and knitter.

If you happened to pass by the T on Sunday, you might have been invited to join the renegade knitters for a tea and cakes provided by the bakery Sweet Adeline, which is just across the street. The mask-wearing knitters were holding a “T party” to bring attention to their piece, which the City of Berkeley has threatened to take down if the knitters do not remove it themselves. City officials contacted the group last week, according to one of the anonymous knitting guerillas, and said federal legislation prohibits the altering public works of art.

“It’s so Bay Area,” Jan said. “In a way we’re very progressive. And in a way we’re really restrictive.”

“It’s brought way more attention to the sculpture,” observed Síla Convery, who owns knit one one, a knitting store across the street from the T.

Regardless of what becomes of the “T cozy,” the knitters have vowed to yarn bomb again.

This piece is published in cooperation with the Bay Citizen; a version of it appears at

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  1. Bike Man Dan on May 30, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    Saw it on a bike ride yesterday, actually hard to even see it. More interesting to me was the cherry tree on the other side of the BART track that is full of unripe but beckoning cherries. But hey, if the city goes after it I’m sure we can get some Cal hunger strikers on board for the cause …

  2. Oakland Daily Photo on May 31, 2010 at 8:17 am

    So that’s what it’s called. I’ve seen “yarn bombing” on the internet without seeing a name for the activity. Neck scarves around trees in Sweden, entire bicycles knitted in Amsterdam, and now the T in There. My, my, how easily Berkeley officials can get their yarn all twisted into a knot. Carry on, Masked Ones, knitting in the spirit of public art.

  3. AccompliceKim on June 27, 2010 at 9:25 pm


    Yarn Bombing is UNHEALTHY for trees!!

    Most yarn being used is ACRYLIC, which is PLASTIC, is NOT biodegradable & gives pests a safe cover from birds looking for food a place to hide while they bore into the tree, weakening it.


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