The IYP Weaves a Strong Fiber of Hope for Refugees

Immigrant Yarn Project totems
Immigrant Yarn Project artworks
Photo credit: Immigrant Yarn Project

Activist and artist Cindy Weil wanted to publicly commemorate the profound contributions of immigrants to the creation of American culture. She founded the Immigrant Yarn Project (IYP), a community public art collaboration and one of the largest works of yarn-based art in the country, in 2017 to serve as a beautiful metaphor depicting the collective immigrant experience.

The Immigrant Yarn Project was created from thousands of yarn squares, pompoms, and blankets collected from over 600 different contributors who represent dozens of different countries. The individual elements are stitched together to create over 80 sculptural totems that tell the story of the immigrants they represent.

Immigrant Yarn Project artwork in progress
Photo credit: Immigrant Yarn Project

Weil says, “The story of fiber arts in America mirrors our immigration narrative. A relative might pass down the knowledge of fiber techniques learned in their country of origin, bringing that knowledge with them to the U.S. when they immigrated and passing it down like a family recipe. This made woven fiber a meaningful medium for the Immigrant Yarn Project.”

After the first installation at the Fort Point National Historic Site in San Francisco, California, on March 8, 2019, Cindy Weil received requests to exhibit the project at various museums and institutions. Instead, she elected to use the Golden Gate Park totems as a real way to provide help to the immigrants whose stories they tell. Twenty-five of the Immigrant Yarn Project totems are for sale, with funds going directly to The Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) and The International Rescue Committee (IRC) to provide aid to refugees and immigrants at the border and throughout the United States.

The totems can be viewed and purchased through the Immigrant Yarn Project website. Proceeds from the sale of select IYP artworks will help fund food, housing, employment, and health care for immigrants in need of assistance.