Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.
Street art is something we’ve covered extensively in the past, and there are reasons for that: it’s often very beautiful (though some would argue otherwise), it’s public and simple to take photos of—and it’s also worthwhile to document, because it’s ephemeral. But it is, of course, usually installed without permission, and the artists who install it are usually anonymous. This makes them impossible to thank—and also, inversely, impossible to hold responsible for damage. Members of communities where street artists are active realize this, and so attempts at communication between the two groups are rare. Which is what makes the story of the Trinity Bellwoods Park yarn tree kind of unusual.
The tree, a Norway Maple, stands near a pedestrian path on the south side of the park, not far from Queen Street. It’s medium sized—not ancient, but established.
A little over a month ago, Friends of Trinity Bellwoods, a community group (not affiliated with the City) that does volunteer work in the park, noticed the art installation. Someone had hammered what looked like hundreds of decorator’s nails directly into the bark of the tree, and then tied multi-coloured yarn to the nailheads, criss-crossing the tree from top to bottom with the yarn, so that it took on the appearance of an otherworldly loom.
About three weeks later, a note appeared, tied to the tree with a brown piece of twine and sealed inside a Ziploc baggie to protect it from the rain. (A transcription is below.)
Photo by Steve Kupferman/Torontoist.
Thanks for your rogue installation—it’s quite beautiful.
However, we have some concerns about its manner of installation
1. We have consulted with an arborist and are told that anytime a hole is made in a tree it creates an environment where rot/disease can start. This installation has several hundred holes.
2. Rogue or guerilla art installations are appreciated but in a public, shared space, such as this park, the artist(s) should make arrangements for their demolition in a timely manner. Not least because the art degrades, starts to look like garbage and like we don’t care for the park. Which we do and assume you do too.
The Friends of Trinity Bellwoods Park (FoTPBP) is a volunteer group of neighbors who maintain and care for the green space beyond what Parks & Rec does. Over the years there’ve been many rogue art installation of which we are supportive. FoTBP’s concerns are always in relation to potential damage, in this case to this beautiful tree.
Thank you. Please do not hesitate to contact us.
on behalf of the Friends of Trinity Bellwood Park
www.trinitybellwoods.ca and www.tbfm.ca
To date, the artist has not been in touch with FoTBP.
“I would have hoped that they would have found a way to contact us, whether anonymously or not, or maybe would have appeared in the middle of the night again to take it down, because it’s starting to look a bit tatty,” Michaelle McLean, the letter’s author, told us during a phone call last week. She’s a neighbourhood resident, and has been caring for trees in Trinity Bellwoods for several years.
Although she’s dismayed the that piece remains up after all this time, her feelings towards the yarn tree are complicated.
“I thought it was beautiful, too. Stunning,” she said. “You just think, oh my God, it must have taken them all night to do it, too. And there’s such precision. Such beautiful precision.”
But she still wishes that the artist had come up with a timely removal plan, rather than abandoning the piece.
“That to me is not what sharing public space is about. It’s about having some consideration for your neighbours…And I’m not sure that some people who practice guerrilla art have consideration for their neighbours.”
Attempts by Torontoist to locate the one responsible for yarning the tree have been unsuccessful. Sean Martindale, a Toronto street artist who has, in the past, worked with plants and string, seemed a likely suspect. He told us privately that the work wasn’t his.
Meanwhile, the yarn continues to fray, and the nails continue to rust. McLean’s note, in its Ziploc bag, has long since disappeared. Ephemeral beauty, apparently, can overstay its welcome.