Making a Difference through Crochet

by Sarah Payne

“I spend thousands of hours with my hands in motion, creating and intertwining my art and work. Loop after loop, hour after hour, I crochet.” Olek

This is the life of Agata Oleksiak, a Polish-born, Brooklyn-based artist most often referred to as “Olek.” Her groundbreaking artwork, which uses crochet as a medium, has been shown all over the world and has been featured in publications such as TIME Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. Olek’s work is unique in that while there have been many street artists who experiment with yarn sculpture, Olek’s creations are done on a much larger scale and frequently placed in overtly public places. One of her most notable pieces is her crochet cover of the Wall Street Bull in New York City, created in 2010. In a blast email, she announced that this was her Christmas gift to NYC, as well as a tribute to the sculptor of the bull, Arturo di Modica.  

Beyond presenting her art as gifts to the public, Olek’s pieces often aim to create a societal impact even larger than her larger than life creations. This was the intent behind her 2015 community-based art project in New Delhi, India. She enlisted the help of community members to create a crochet cover that surrounded the entirety of a local homeless shelter. Her goal was to bring recognition to the “Rain Baseras” (night shelter) Project, the government program that built the shelter, as well as shed light on the issue of homelessness in New Delhi, which is currently home to thousands of homeless people.

Now, Olek has brought her talent and humanitarian efforts to Virginia Beach. She has been working with community members since October to create a piece that will raise awareness about the waters surrounding Virginia Beach. Her creation is a giant crocheted version of The New York Times that boasts only positive news about Virginia Beach’s environment. The newspaper is so large that it covers up one whole side of the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art building! Olek’s hope for this piece is that it will inspire change and promote the understanding that each and every one of us has the ability to help better our planet.

See VA MOCA's website for more details on her work here in Virginia Beach and other upcoming events included in the Hi-Fructose exhibition.


Sarah Payne is an intern in the Marketing Department at WHRO and is a rising junior at the University of Virginia, majoring in English and Media Studies.