With The Joining Project, an Albanian artist is knitting Boston together

The World

It's a bit Christo, a bit Andy Goldsworthy and a bit like your grandma's tea cozy.

The Joining Project spans across the center of the bridge that connects the city of Boston with the city of Cambridge. And the artist behind it is Silvi Naci.

Naci's family emigrated from Albania to the United States in 2001. She says that her love of all things knitted comes from her mom.

"I remember being at home when I was younger in Albania. In the afternoon, after everybody took a nap, a lot of the moms in the neighborhood would meet at somebody's house and they would catch up and talk and they would knit," she says. "And I thought that was such an awesome way to get people together. So I thought about turning this utilitarian bridge into a communal place for people to make art."

The knit work ranges from the intricate and beautiful, to things that look more like a failed high school macramé project. Overall, though, the different colors of yarn and ribbon lining the bridge make it a particularly beautiful space.

Naci's mom contributed pieces of that beauty.

“She knitted my name. It says, 'FOUNDER SILVI NACI', which [was] very sweet of her. There's a lot of pieces from when we were little, some of the scarves that she made for us when we were little. And she reused them for the project," Naci says. "What has made me very happy, not only with my mom, but a lot of other people is that this is a platform for them to be an artist, that some of them have never been to an art show, or done any public art pieces. They are very happy that this has happened so that they have their way of expressing these ideas about our city."

Besides creating something aesthetically pleasing, the project is also a memorial of sorts.

Naci is a runner. And she was on this bridge last year when two bombs exploded at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring hundreds.

"I was running right here on the bridge," she says, adding that the bombing was a sad reminder of her childhood in Albania.

"Threats like this happen so much in Albania when I lived there. My parents and I moved here in hopes that terrorism wouldn't follow us. I guess it happens everywhere. It was just a very sad day."

Attached to each piece of knitting is a piece of cardboard. Naci asks contributors to write a wish on it.

But it's been a wet July, so some of the messages have faded. Naci says she thinks that means the wish came true, if it washed away.

Like a gardener tending her flowers, Naci comes to the bridge with a ball of yarn in her bag to do repairs, add more knitted squares, and watch members of the public take in her work.

"As they walk through the bridge, [they] hold onto the railing to feel all the knitting. ... When I'm here on Sundays putting more pieces up, I see them smile and it makes me happy."

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