Big, beautiful butterfly lands on Block Island

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 6:00pm

When my dear friend Nina Stack told me that she wanted me to meet her Center Road neighbor, I had no idea that the introduction would lead to such an amazing community project. Nina’s neighbor Naomi Lawrence is an artist who creates gorgeous fiber art for the street. She and her husband Chris came to the U.S. from England in 2014 to serve at Church of the Living Hope UCC in East Harlem. In 2019, they took their ministry to the street when they formed InnerCHANGE East Harlem — a ministry for people struggling with isolation, immigration issues, and other challenges that leave them marginalized.

The Lawrences bought their house on Center Road in 2017 after being introduced to the island by Union Theological Seminary. The island’s new friendship with Naomi and Chris has been the catalyst for expanding the Roots and Wings exchange program between the Block Island School and students from East Harlem. It has also been the inspiration for a wonderful fiber arts project for our community during the recent shelter-in-place situation due to Covid 19.

The original plan for Roots and Wings this spring was to have the eighth grade visit to New York City to include a visit to East Harlem to meet up with some of island resident Candy Halikas’s students, do some community service work together at an apartment building that is home to 300 seniors, and see some of Naomi’s fiber art. All the students would follow up by organizing people in both communities to crochet or knit squares for a piece of fiber art they would design with Naomi to be installed on the fence at the Ball O’Brien Park when the East Harlem kids came to visit the island a few weeks after the NYC trip.

Unfortunately, the world was turned upside down by Covid 19 and the trip for this spring was canceled. The alternative plan, with the help of the On Island Collaborative, was to ask the whole island community to break out their hooks and needles and contribute squares for a monarch butterfly, a smaller version of one currently installed in East Harlem. We put a call out for fiber folks on Block Island. The response was wonderful and after just two weeks of social isolation we had more than 200 crochet and knit squares donated from more than 25 people near and far. Naomi, with the help of Charon Littlefield, has sewn the squares into our beautiful butterfly that is now on the fence at the park. We want to thank the Wednesday Night Knitters at the Island Free Library, North Light Fibers and the Spring Street Gallery for their support with this project.

I’ve found that creating our butterfly during these crazy times has given me hope and I love the way it represents the spring migration of people, birds and butterflies in our community. We have all emerged from our cocoons and are now spreading our wings. I hope that people who see her will feel the same way. Migration is Beautiful.

Please send me photos of you or people you know with our beautiful community butterfly so we can gather them for a collage. She will be here until Columbus Day. Stay tuned for more fiber arts community projects with Naomi sponsored by the On Island Collaborative for artists and makers.

If you have any ideas or comments please contact me at