HYDE PARK — The Smart Museum of Art has collected more than 1,000 miles of yarn knitted into blankets.
It needs 1,000 miles more.
The museum is collecting so much yarn to reach 2,000 miles, the length of President Donald Trump’s proposed border wall, as part of its first exhibit under the museum’s new director.
Alison Gass started as the new director of the museum, 5550 S. Greenwood Ave., in May and one of her first major projects was to bring in artist and designer Jayna Zweiman. Zweiman created the Pussyhat Project and became known nationwide when the knit pink hat became the symbol of the Women’s March.
Zweiman has tapped back into that network of knitters and crafters to try to create blankets from 1,989 miles of yarn, the distance of President Trump’s proposed border wall, and then give those blankets out to refugee families coming to the United States.
“I like that it has that afterlife,” Zweiman said. “You know don’t know where they are going.”
So far the museum has collected more than 1,700 blankets.
Gass said the way “Welcome Blanket” gets people involved talking about art and contemporary issues through something familiar to everyone is the perfect kind of project for a university museum and the type of exhibit she wants the Smart Museum to do more.
“Museums can feel a little scary and you feel like if you’re not an art historian, you don’t get it,” Gass said. “University museums are a place to explore ideas in a different and more overt way.”
She said the museum is currently preparing an exhibit on African-American artists who have been excluded or overlooked by the traditional canon of American art.
The museum has partnered with South Side collector Pamela Joyner to open her open her private collection to the public and to bring in the collections of other South Side art collectors with a similar ethos.
Gass said such thematic exhibits that prompt conversations in the community as well as among faculty should be the “bread and butter” of the museum.
She said the museum is currently discussing whether its own strategy toward collecting pieces to expand beyond the European, Asian, modern and contemporary work it has typically sought.
Gass said the interior of the museum is also being rethought and there might be major changes.
The “Welcome Blanket” exhibit runs through Dec. 17.