Andy Warhol Bridge getting a pop of color from area artists in yarn bombing

| Sunday, Aug. 11, 2013, 11:06 p.m.

The idea of Andy Warhol dolled up in knitted splendor convinced Doug Spahr this was something worth seeing.

That's the Warhol Bridge, not the late artist.

“It's the most imaginative, stunning project I've seen in Pittsburgh, probably ever,” Spahr, 57, of O'Hara said Sunday while checking out the Knit the Bridge project, which had volunteers spending the weekend covering the span across the Allegheny River from Downtown to the North Side in hand-knitted blankets of all colors. “The scale, the idea ... it pulls in the fabric of Pittsburgh.”

Spahr wasn't the only one who thought so. Bruce and Jayna Harkleroad stayed at a North Shore hotel after attending Saturday's Steelers game. Before heading home to Kittanning, they made it a point to see the yarn bombing — a public art installation that involves wrapping objects in yarn.

“I think it says something for Pittsburgh,” said Jayna Harkleroad, 59. “It speaks volumes for community involvement and caring.”

The project will remain in place until early September as what organizers say will be a symbol of unity, creativity and common ground. After volunteers remove the knitted panels, they will be cleaned and donated to homeless shelters, nursing homes and animal shelters.

“The idea is about bridging people and communities,” said Kitty Spangler, 57, of Lawrence-ville, a panel specialist and installation coordinator for the project. “It's not just about covering a bridge in art.”

More than 1,800 people volunteered by knitting panels, helping install them and donating money or materials, she said. Knitters represented about 90 percent of Pittsburgh neighborhoods and Allegheny County municipalities and every surrounding county, other states and countries.

Knit work arrived from Argentina and Spain, California and New York. A woman from Iceland helped install panels on Saturday, said Spangler, a painter who learned to crochet in June and made three panels — the maximum allowed by one person — on the bridge renamed in 2005 to honor pop artist and Oakland native Warhol.

“Some people said they used to live in Pittsburgh and wanted to participate. Others just heard about the project and wanted to be a part of it,” she said. “We had people come out of the woodwork.”

Tim Jones of Leet searched for the best angles to view the work along the river walk. He made his way over after spending the morning at First Presbyterian Church, Downtown, with his Sunday morning men's photography group.

“I like things that are different, and I think this is different,” Jones, 75, said as he looked through his camera lens. “It's neat that it is happening here in Pittsburgh.”

Kayakers on the Allegheny gawked up as they passed beneath the bridge. A jogger paused to capture a memory with her cellphone camera. Bicyclists pulled over to take in the moment.

Among them were Nina Strelec, 38, a school art teacher from Bridgeville, and Teresa Lavery, 51, of Sewickley, who planned their bike ride to see the project.

“Pittsburgh is such a great cultural city when it comes to the arts,” Strelec said. “People are coming together to brighten up the city.”

Lavery, a budding knitter, heard of the project and lamented doubting her abilities as she viewed the work.

“Now I wish I would have pushed myself,” she said.

A volunteer told her it wasn't too late. More knitted black bands are needed to cover the bridge's railings, and some people will gather on Monday to continue working at Spinning Plate Gallery on Friendship Avenue in East Liberty.

“I'm going to try to make it,” Lavery said.

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or

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