Kirsten Ervin taught Knit the Bridge’s lead artist a lot of what she knows, so it’s only fitting that Kirsten would play a key role at Knit the Bridge as our Accessibility Coordinator. As an Accessible Art Instructor and Consultant, Kirsten has experience thinking, designing, and advocating for inclusion and accessibility. Learn more about Kirsten in this Q&A!
1. What is your History with Pittsburgh?
I’ve lived in Pittsburgh since 1992, I attended graduate school at the University of Pittsburgh, I met my husband here. This is my adopted home town; I never want to leave. People are down to earth, the arts are hopping and possibilities are endless. My roots are in Pittsburgh – my mother grew up in Clairton, PA, a small steel town, and my folks met in art school at Carnegie Tech in the 1950s.
2. What is your History with Fiber Art?
Before Knit the Bridge, the only Fiber Art I did was embroidery, and enjoyed embroidering my own drawings onto things I sold at craft events like Handmade Arcade. I used to sell hankies with embroideries of people sneezing on them. I just learned to crochet at the beginning of Knit the Bridge, and it’s fun, I enjoy it. I’m not great at it, because I’m not a very precise kind of gal.
3. What are you most excited about doing as part of the core Knit the Bridge Team?
What I love about Knit the Bridge is how truly democratic and inclusive it is. Unlike many art projects, it reaches out to people who are usually
overlooked. My focus has been on reaching out to the blind and deaf communities, as well as other disabilities – and the people in these communities get it and are excited to be a part of something big. Folks from BOLD (Blind Outdoor Leisure Development) and GTCB (Golden Triangle Council of the Blind) loved touching the tactile bridge I made and also enjoyed the yarn-bombed tennis racket and football Kitty Spangler made. No one thought it strange at all, they were delighted. It’s also unique in that KtB is truly accessible, hands-on art. People who are blind and visually impaired are going to be able to touch this art once it’s installed, which almost never happens in museums and galleries. And it’s going to be texturally interesting and varied, and embody tactile aesthetics.
4. What do you see as the challenges?
In order to do community outreach in the right way, it has to happen face to face, person to person, group to group. When you reach groups in the margins, like people with disabilities, you can’t just rely on email, and you have to build trust. My challenge is, as it is with all the KtB community leaders, doing the footwork and the follow up. But Amanda and her team understand that implicitly and have walked the walk and talked the talk.
5. How can others support your work with KtB?
I think in realizing that people with disabilities can contribute, that people are creative and want to be included. It’s not “amazing” that someone who is deaf or blind would be able to knit or crochet or would want to be part of KtB; why wouldn’t they? I think KtB brings visibility to the contributions and talents people we think about as “other”, and far outside our experience. But again, the KtB team has developed this warm and inclusive atmosphere where everyone is welcome and invited to participate.