Weaving the Community is a collaborative, creative effort by Jersey City Public Schools to introduce the social and emotional benefits of fiber arts techniques in the classroom and the school community.
From September 2022 through January 2023, schools were provided with yarn and resources to begin the process of designing a knitted mural that would represent the essence of their community. Twenty-three elementary schools, all four middle schools and eight high schools contributed to the project, which was installed at the Central Railroad of New Jersey Train Terminal at Liberty State Park, 1 Audrey Zapp Drive on March 13.
Their designs will remain on display until Sunday April 16. The project will also be displayed at New Jersey City University during the district’s Parents as Partners event, which will take place May 2023. After that, it may be displayed outside of Jersey City schools, including a long fence at the James J. Ferris High School.
Gina Verdibello, a Jersey City Board of Education trustee, said she brought the idea to the district last year as she enjoys knitting and crocheting with her daughters. Her original thought, she said, was to yarn bomb fences with murals created by students, teachers and anyone who wanted to join in.
“I approached the superintendent and the head of curriculum, and they loved the idea,” she said. From there, the team spearheading the project grew – and there was wide participation among students, she said.
“Every participating school could use whatever yarn they wanted,” Verdibello said. “It didn’t even have to be yarn per se – it could be cloth or T-shirts.”
It was inspiring to see different teachers and the students come together to create such wonderful pieces of fiber art, Verdibello said. Anyone who wanted to participate was welcome, she said.
Most of the art the students created revolved around school pride, including an image of a diploma with a sunrise and the city in the back, Verdibello said. “We have a lot of talented kids,” she said. “There was a lot of work put into this.”
She added that knitting is a great activity to improve mental health, and it also involves using mathematics. “There are a lot of things that can come out of this education wise,” she said.
Linda Sabbia-Fiore, an art teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. School, PS #11, noted that the project her students worked on incorporated an eagle, the school’s mascot, which is a “representation of how our students soar when faced with challenges and goals.” She added, “Martin Luther King Jr is depicted because our school is named in honor of him. Last, but not least, a square of our quilt depicts the wonderful cultural diversity in our school/community. We are truly a melting pot of the finest.”
The collaborative team for the project included Ellen M. Ruane, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction; Gina Verdibello, a Jersey City Board of Education trustee; Melissa Cuccinello, supervisor of visual arts, curriculum and instruction; Stephanie Romano, a fiber artist and art teacher at James J. Ferris High School; and Michelle Vitale, a fiber artist and director of equity and inclusion at Hudson County Community college.
This booklet includes more information about the project as well as numerous pictures of student designs.