What do Pearl S. Buck, Mary Cassatt, Lucille Ball, Deborah Sampson, Helen Keller, Sally Ride, Harper Lee and Rose Gilbert have in common? They are among more than 60 women honored at the Village Green for Women’s History Month.
Visitors to the triangular private park, bordered by Sunset Boulevard, Swarthmore and Antioch, are impressed by how the park has been transformed with crocheted blankets on benches, yarn tree dresses and even yarn floating fish “under the tree.” The yarn is supplemented with small signs featuring famous women and their accomplishments.
The annual “yarn bombing” in Pacific Palisades, which has been the brainchild of Michelle Villemaire, was installed on March 4 and will be up through March 18.
Villemaire has yarn-bombed the Green for six years – and before that, the installation was on Monument, before the construction of Caruso’s mall. The idea started as her way of recognizing women in history.
When Villemaire did her first installation, her daughters Pearl and Vivi were seven and four. “I wanted [the yarn bombing] to be for something” she said. “It became a great way to talk with my kids about inspirational women and women who had an impact on us in history.”
For years, Palisadian lobbied the federal government to build a permanent brick-and-mortar museum to house women’s history. “The Smithsonian has just adopted the idea,” she said. The museum was established by Congress as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021.
“The worst part of Covid for me was the struggle to create routines,” Villemaire said. “Physical and mental health suffered for all of us. This yarn bomb is a happy moment — to be back outside, seeing the community again but also somber, as we’ve all been through so much, lost so much.”
Marge Gold, president of the Village Green Committee, told Circling the News: “We support Michelle’s work because of the message of honoring women in history. It’s so creative, colorful and full of joy and it brings a smile to people’s faces.”
Gold also noted that “this wouldn’t be here without Jim, because the YMCA supplies the insurance.”
Jim Kirtley, the executive director of the Y, said “I think supporting women’s history is important because of the major impact women have had and continue to have on our world.
“As the father of a 12-year-old daughter, it’s personally important to not only celebrate women, but also to give young girls the opportunity to learn about the incredible impact of women throughout history, and reinforce that they can do amazing things, too,” Kirtley said.
Kirtley and Gold, who helped Villemaire with this installation, said it was wonderful to be back creating and “talking to community members about what we were doing and hearing the excitement about the yarn bombing.”
Villemaire, a self-described “Air Force brat,” was born in Massachusetts but spent much of her childhood in Saudi Arabia. She has lived in the Palisades since 2011 with her husband, the Emmy Award-winning TV writer/producer Jonathon Abrahams.
An interior designer, she has designed videos for brands such as The Home Depot and Starbucks, and is now working with residential clients through her company, VILLEMAIRE Design (villemairedesign.com)
She also started learning Thai during the Covid shutdown. “I never learned from my mother as a kid and it’s so rewarding to know how to read and write in a language I once thought would be impossible to learn,” said Villemaire, who has started a dual citizenship process. “It’s always been part of my identity, but I’m ready to make it official.”
Villemaire decided this year to make the yarn bombing impromptu, “using what I have – the stuff from before the pandemic,” which included yarn fish created by students in Karyn Newbill Helmig’s Palisades High classroom.
Villemaire told Circling the News, “I was giddy packing up the car to drive to the Village Green because I knew I’d finally get to see my buddies Marge Gold and Jim Kirtley — absolutely food for my long-starved soul.”
She was asked about how the high school kids, who gather after school on the Green to visit or to wait for buses, have reacted to this installation.
“I’ve birthed children, but it’s the kids who give me life, coming through, looking at the installation… talking about how inspirational it is… Oh my goodness,” Villemaire said, noting that students are looking around and not on their phones. “I can’t tell you how many kids stop and read the quotes and take pictures with their friends. I watch them walk away with smiles and a piece of women’s history. It makes me so happy. Maybe they’ll put it on TikTok later, but it started at the Village Green!”