Love Across the USA: Marian Anderson

artist Olek

Love Across the USA: Marian Anderson. Photo by Steve Weinik.

Artist Olek and members of her crochet team pose at the dedication of the mural. Photo by Steve Weinik.

The Mural Arts Studio at the Barnes welcomed artist Olek in spring 2018, as part of her nationwide Love Across the USA project. This massive crochet mural series is a community-made public art project that highlights the accomplishments of women throughout US history, and brings people together through workshops and installations. Each location features a different woman: so far, portraits have included Susan B. Anthony (Rochester, NY), Harriet Tubman (Auburn, NY), and Nina Simone (Raleigh, NC).

The entire Philadelphia community was invited to learn how to crochet, and to take part in this installation. Loops of crocheted yarn came together in small squares, building a whole mural out of individual parts. Over the course of spring 2018, 97 people contributed 140 squares, a total of 588 crochet stitches in 37 miles of Red Heart yarn. The finished work—a portrait of singer and Philly local Marian Anderson—is on display at Marian Anderson Rec Center in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood, where Anderson grew up and learned how to sing.

Of the quote included in the mural design, Olek says, “Marian Anderson said it right: ‘You lose a lot of time, hating people.’ We have to learn how to forgive in order to move forward. If you want to change the world, start by cleaning your house—not only the space itself but the messes in your relationships. Reach out to a friend you haven’t spoken to for years; to relatives you had a quarrel with; to nemeses. This starts the process of uniting family, community, country and the world.” Just before the mural was assembled, Olek learned that Mo, the woman who had volunteered to crochet Square #87, had passed away before completing it. As a tribute to Mo, Olek chose to replace Square #87 (the letter “a” in “hating”) with her name inside a heart on a purple square (Mo’s favorite color).


Red Heart


The Barnes Foundation