Photo of canopy in alley by Bottle and Barrel. Photos provided by Laura Blair and Christy Ferguson. Used with permission.

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CHALABRE, FRANCE – The Riverbend Yarn Bombers are about to have one of their most popular pieces featured internationally at the local Chalabre en Serenade Music Festival in France.

The piece, called the “Hooplah Canopy,” is a woven canopy created by several members of the Riverbend Yarn Bombers, has been featured in the high-traffic alley outside Bottle and Barrel in Alton, and was even featured at an art show in Edwardsville, where it was nearly lost forever when a worker from the city was about to throw it in the trash. It was rescued by a young man named Jeremy Henson, who thought it was neat and wanted to save it for himself. He graciously returned the Hooplah Canopy to Laura Blair of the Riverbend Yarn Bombers.

“The purpose of our canopy was to serve the community,” Blair said in a Facebook message. “It draws people in to look at the work, the colors and the textures, and they stay for the shade. It's a place to gather. The canopy is a metaphor for community. Individual artists created these pieces, but the sum is greater than all its parts.”

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Christy Ferguson, who has been with the group for just under a year, did the write-up proposal for the Hooplah Canopy's inclusion in the French music festival. It was seen in a Facebook group called Upcycle Fiber Art and was noticed by Julie Prochoski of Chalabre, France. Blair and Prochoski discussed semantics and finalized everything earlier this week.

“Its purpose was merely a way to have fun and create something beautiful,” Ferguson said. “However, since so many members of our group came together to create the piece, the concept of community stands to be equally important to its purpose. When we began this piece, I don't think any of us expected the attention it received. It has created a wonderful story for our organization. It has brought us closer as a group and inspired many future projects.”

Photo of canopy at Edwardsville art fair just before it was nearly lost forever.

One of the most notable characters in the saga of the canopy, however, was Henson, who recovered it from the brink of being lost forever. While he himself did not make a square for inclusion, Henson's noble decision to return something he saved for its beauty, ultimately made the international display possible.

“To express our extreme appreciation, many of our members got together and made him hoops of his own!” Ferguson said. “Since then, this piece has truly become our trademark. It represents our group perfectly: several individual, colorful personalities coming together to create one incredibly cohesive artistic piece.”

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