East Bay artists bring warmth, joy to downtown Livermore by decorating trees with sweaters

LIVERMORE, Calif. (KGO) -- A group of tight-knit artists are bringing warmth and joy to downtown Livermore with an outdoor art installation.

Each year, local artists look forward to sharing their craft and creativity with their community with yarn or felt.

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Since 2014, a group of fiber artists have created sweaters for the trees on First Street in an effort to bring vibrant colors to kick start the fall season and festivities, but this year things are a little different amid COVID-19.

"Initially, the Downtown Livermore Tree Sweater Forest was the opening act for Art Walk which typically takes place in October each year," said Donnamarie Fuller, artist of the Downtown Tree Sweater Forest. "Six years ago, the city of Livermore would sponsor it and local businesses would sponsor a tree.They (City of Livermore) would advertise that tree to local fiber artists to create a sweater with the intention of donating it to a local animal shelter."

This year, artists decided to keep the tradition going and decorated the trees at a safe social distance.

"I was worried that they weren't going to have one (tree sweater forest) this year," said Joelle Arguello, longtime Livermore resident. "Right now is a really good time for this, people are happy when they see the trees go up."

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Joelle Arguello, known as Ms. Joelle, had the help of her students at local after school program to create her tree sweater for the forest.

"I thought a sweater tree is a big endeavor and my students came along and a lot of them want to do finger weaving," said Arguello. "The kids love rainbows and this is our kindness tree. We are showing kindness to our community and it represents the love that we have for our art."

The artist's main goal is to provide art and joy to their local community. One artist spent many hours making a special sweater in support of the Black Liver Matter movement and the LGBTQ community. Within 48 hours of the art installation, the tree sweater was taken down from the tree and disappeared by an unknown person(s).

"Taking hours to make a tree and it just disappears the next day. It kind of bums out the crafter," said Arguello. "We put our heart and souls into these trees. If you aren't happy with it then that's fine but leave it alone."

Leaders of the sweater forest will take the sweaters down in mid-November and donate the sweaters to East County Animal Shelter and Field Services in Dublin.

"An opportunity to share our love back with the community and it is an awareness of what art brings to the community and the need that we have at several local animals shelters," said Fuller. "We are going to make sure the sweaters go to local animal shelters where pups and kittens waiting for homes will have something to lay on, something cushy, something comfortable while they wait for their new family."

This year, the Downtown Tree Sweater Forest will be up until November 15.
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