Public art project makes blankets for the homeless

Materials for the Ground Cover art project are assembled in downtown Pheonix. For those volunteers assembling blankets, donated materials are an essential part of completing the work necessary to create the piece. (Photo by Andrew Ybanez) Materials for the Ground Cover art project are assembled in downtown Phoenix. For the volunteers assembling blankets, the donated materials are an essential part of completing the work necessary to create the piece. (Photo by Andrew Ybanez)

Members of the community are making and donating 300 blankets to the homeless in an art project called “Ground Cover.”

The public art project, headed by local artist Ann Morton with help from the ASU Art Museum and Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, asked volunteers to create blankets that will be laid side by side in an art installation to be displayed in a vacant lot, then taken apart and distributed to the homeless.

Morton, who has a master’s degree in fiber arts, uses her art as social commentary and “a way to examine a society to which we are a part of.”

The ultimate goal of Ground Cover is to nurture an empty space and the community surrounding it.

“It’s a way to combine artistic technique with social intervention,” Morton said.

Ground Cover was brought to the table during a period of project proposals to the city.

“Three hundred (blankets) just seemed so daunting, and I wasn’t sure if it would even happen, but all of a sudden, it was selected,” Morton said. “There’s never really been anything like this.”

The blankets made for Ground Cover will be made in any way the volunteer chooses, whether knitted, crocheted, woven, quilted or anything in between.

Local volunteer Donna Eyring said her contribution will be a hand-sewn felt blanket, while ASU alumna Allison Ringness is crocheting a blanket to donate.

Each blanket will be made of 28 squares that represent “pixels” of a larger image. When all 300 blankets are laid side by side on Dec. 6 and 7, they will come together to form a giant quilt resembling a desert flower.

“I was doing a project with pixels on a smaller scale with my niece,” Morton said. “I then started thinking about a way to do that on a larger scale."

At the project’s initial meet and greet, Michael Tapscott, author of “Homeless Hero,” raised a concern that the 300 blankets in the project will only help a small fraction of Maricopa county’s roughly 14,000 homeless individuals.

After speaking about his experiences researching the lives of the homeless, Tapscott was quick to counter his own argument, pointing out that because the Phoenix community is responsible for allowing homelessness to exist, we are also responsible for helping them.

“We are the ones that have to do something,” Tapscott said. “My father once said that you don’t volunteer to rush out and save all humanity; you volunteer to save your humanity.”

So, yes, Tapscott said, the project will absolutely make a difference in the lives of the Phoenix homeless, as well as those who are contributing to the project.

Morton said the response to Ground Cover was overwhelming, with volunteers from an estimated 22 states pitching in and contributing their time and resources to make and donate blankets.

With such a great response, Ground Cover is succeeding in Tapscott and Morton’s call for community involvement, bringing together both local and national communities in a mass effort to keep our homeless warm this winter.


Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @teenyanguyen

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