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Public art installation connects Massey and cancer awareness to the Danville community

May 27, 2021

Image for yarn bomb story

Suzette Wilkins interpreted the cancer stories of two dear friends as she crocheted with yarn in shades of pink and white.

“All the pink made me think of Katherine. She’s battling breast cancer and just had her left breast removed. Now she is to begin radiation, so it was all for her,” explains Wilkins, a Danville-based fiber artist. “And Laura passed away in January from lung cancer, that’s the white. Every square has some meaning to it. The big one at the center with the cross represents Jesus turning graves into gardens.”

Finding light in what is often the darkness of cancer for many people is at the core of VCU Massey Cancer Center’s participation in an upcoming public art installation by the Danville Museum of Fine Arts & History (DMFAH) called Wanderlove: Threads of Connection.

“The Museum was making a call for community groups to get involved, and we thought cancer should be at the table and meet people where they are,” says Kathy Hurt, programs coordinator at VCU Massey Cancer Center’s Cancer Research and Resource Center in Danville. “It’s fun and different. This is about being colorful and beautiful.”

Knitted canvas for Wanderlove Suzette Wilkins crocheted this piece in honor of and in memory of two friends.

Wanderlove will include knitted, crocheted and sewn squares and scarves created in honor of cancer survivors and in memory of lives lost. Hurt and Charlotte Garrett, RN, coordinator of Massey’s outreach center in Danville, also asked area knitters to contribute cancer stories to laminate and attach to the pieces.

“We are absolutely thrilled to have VCU Massey Cancer Center on board for the Wanderlove project,” says Elsabe’ Dixon, DMFAH executive director. “The DMFA is finding creative ways of incorporating the cancer awareness message into the actual exhibition. For instance, right now we are having a local artist exhibition, hanging fiber canvases in strategic public spaces.”

The complete Wanderlove installation will be on display along Danville's River Walk Trail from July 4 to September 26, 2021, with guidance from the city's Parks and Rec team and the Dan River Basin Association.

Shirley Adkins, a volunteer knitter, has enjoyed how the project has created unity during a time when COVID-19 has kept many people apart.

“Working with Massey's outreach office here to support the Museum's effort to yarn bomb Danville's River Walk Trail has been a light-hearted way for the cancer community to come together to work through a very heavy subject during a really difficult time,” says Adkins.

Adds Wilkins, “It’s been great to focus on this. Sometimes I look at what I accomplished and just cry. Losing Laura was tough, but her square adds meaning.”

Wanderlove will also incorporate fiber art from several groups representing various causes.

The Museum will accept contributions until the end of May.

For more information about adding to Massey’s display, call 434-791-5205, or send contributions directly to the outreach center at 530 Main Street, Suite 208, Danville, Virginia 24541.

Written by: Amy Lacey

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