A public art controversy is blooming in San Diego thanks to a mysterious man who has turned 100 stop signs into flowers using yarn and wire.
Back in March, the computer programmer who only identifies himself as "Bryan" started a "yarn bombing" project in which he and a dozen others knitted and crocheted green stems and leaves onto 100 stop signs in his neighborhood.
"I went out at night and wrapped scarves that I had already knitted around the signposts and stitched them to the poles and added leaves that I made with yarn and wire," Bryan told The Huffington Post. "At first, people ignored me, wanting to avoid that guy standing on a step-ladder near a stop sign, but as I got up to 50, 60 signs, people started to stick their heads out of their cars and tell me they loved what I was doing."
But that love hasn't bloomed in all corners. Recently, San Diego City official Bill Harris contacted Bryan through his website and told him to stop turning signs into trees.
"The City is forced to announce that the Stop Sign Flowers must come down. Even with the great community spirit this effort has generated, there are just too many restrictions to overcome," Harris wrote in a letter that was excerpted in San Diego Citybeat. "City staff looked through state law and local policies trying to find some way of allowing the flowers to remain in place. Unfortunately, particularly with traffic control signs and including all other City assets, there is just no way to retain the works where they now are."
Bryan has 10 days to remove them before city employees do so, and he is currently weighing his options.
"If I remove them, I can repurpose them, but if I leave them, it's possible they just might stay," Bryan said. "In January, 2011, I put up five as a test run and they are still there, so I'm hoping it was just the city doing their due diligence. But I'd like to think that if you were a busy city worker and had a whole day's work ahead of you, removing this might be too much trouble."
Although he is resigned to fate, others like San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf are trying to see if they can pull any strings to keep the yarn-coverings on the stop signs by gathering support via Twitter:
Meanwhile, the artistic community is also rallying behind Bryan, a.k.a. "Knitter Guy," according to San Diego arts and culture journalist Enrique Limon, who stitched together the first story on the stop sign flowers for San Diego Citybeat.
"The cool thing about this is that Bryan isn't trying to be cool or edgy, he's just trying to do a project to beautify his neighborhood," Limon said. "I think removing them is detrimental to a city that is not exactly on the cutting edge of public art."
Bryan would like the stop sign flowers to stay, but realizes that he may not be able to stop their removal. Still, he's happy that he has a great yarn to tell his kids.
"I have two daughters -- 11 and 13 -- and this has been inspirational to them," he said.