Public art faceoff: Seattle yarn bombing vs NYC lampposts (photos)

Stripes were clearly “in” this summer, judging by the public art in America’s most creative cities. Bright bands of color graced trees in Seattle’s Occidental Park and lampposts in New York City’s East Village.

Which begs the question, who wins the battle of the rainbow-colored public art: the Big Apple or the Emerald City?

Seattle vs NYC public art battle

Scroll down for details of these colorful art installations. And don’t forget to share your opinion by leaving a comment below!

A plastic ‘cactus’ sprouts  in the East Village

PROS: Colorful lampposts may brighten your day, or at least peak your curiosity
CONS: Plastic-covered lampposts are less earth-friendly than actual cacti (but are less likely to skewer you)

Manhattan’s Astor Place always buzzes with activity; commuters hop on and off the 6 train, students hang out under the Cube, and shoppers dash into Kmart for their toilet paper fix.

It takes a lot to get locals to stop dead in their tracks– such as a dozen lampposts covered in fluorescent plastic.

Animus Arts Collective Flaming Cactus NYC 3

This spiky art installation– known as “Flaming Cactus”– appeared this summer and is expected to stay up until June 2010 (unless local critics stage a revolt and tear it down).

Animus Arts Collective Flaming Cactus NYC 4

The installation was created by the Animus Art Collective and placed with the city’s permission. While the lampposts look soft and fuzzy from a distance, they are covered in thousands of durable, plastic cable ties.

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On their website, the collective explains why they used the plastic ties:

“We as artists wanted to create something of beauty out of everyday items.  We wanted to show that making art doesn’t require a lot of resources, formal education, or even money.”

Animus Arts Collective Flaming Cactus NYC 6

“Flaming Cactus” isn’t the first artwork to cover the neighborhood’s lampposts. Jim Power, known in the East Village as the Mosaic Man, has been decorating poles with original art for 25 years.

Notably, the “Flaming Cactus” artists worked around his mosaic creations, resulting in hybrid poles with both mosaic tiles and plastic ties (see above photo).

Seattle survives a summer ‘yarn bombing’

PROS: Brightly colored knitting is relatively earth-friendly, brings up childhood memories and gives you a reason to stare at a tree
CONS: Most knitting done by machine, so you won’t get to see an army of knitters going to town on said tree

Seattle’s Occidental Park is home to a giant chess set, sculptures of heroic firemen and several totem poles. Locals craving even more attractions in this small park were delighted to find Occidental’s trees covered in rainbow-hued yarn this summer.

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The city-sanctioned art project, dubbed “Artificial Light” by its creator, was launched during International Yarn Bombing Day (June 11, 2011). Yarn bombing is an increasingly popular form of street art based on knitting and crochet.

Seattle knit trees public art 3

I ran into the artist, Suzanne Tidwell, during a visit to Seattle this June. She was perched on a ladder in Occidental Park, sewing stretches of colorful knitting onto a tree. Although she had just started the project a week before, she had already covered a dozen trees and planned to decorate every vertical surface in the park.

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Located in Seattle’s Pioneer Square district, the park is filled with children and families. During my visit, several children stopped to touch, hug and tug at the knitting. The artist happily answered their questions about her work.

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The Seattle yarn bombing project has an edge over NYC’s plastic lampposts in one respect: it appears to be more environmentally friendly. The artist explained she uses repurposed yarn whenever possible, and there is no way this material would hold up for a full year– the reported length of the NYC art project. In fact, the installation has already been taken down.

You be the judge!

Do you prefer Seattle’s knit trees or NYC’s plastic cacti? Share your opinion by leaving a comment below!

About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.