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Math Meets Craft to Raise Awareness of Threats to Coral Reefs

ASHEVILLE, NC – Western North Carolina is joining a global effort to crochet a coral reef. As part of the unique project, the “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” by the Institute For Figuring (IFF) in Los Angeles, which unites non-Euclidean hyperbolic geometry with ancient craft techniques, area artisans are working to create beautiful and lifelike models that will raise awareness of threats to the world’s coral. The Asheville Reef, organized by UNC Asheville’s Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, will involve crochet groups in Brevard and Hendersonville, as well as UNC Asheville, Appalachian State University and Western Carolina University.

The Asheville Reef is a “satellite reef” of the IFF’s “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” project. The satellite reef will feature brightly colored, healthy-looking crochet reef, and several sub-reefs that dramatize environmental threats to coral, inspired by the “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” which was first exhibited in 2007 at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, and was most recently on view in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

Ladies Silurian Atol (detail). Orange coral mound with black and white “pot pots”. Photo © The Institute For Figuring (by Alyssa Gorelick)The “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” is the brainchild of two sisters from Australia, Christine and Margaret Wertheim, co-founders of the Institute for Figuring in Los Angeles. Margaret Wertheim, a science journalist, first began crocheting with her sister to try to create models of hyperbolic geometry, which, unlike conventional geometry, considers shapes on a curved surface. Only after stepping back from their cloth creations did the Wertheims see the strong resemblance to coral reefs. Hyperbolic shapes are frequently found in nature, including sea life like kelp and coral.

The Wertheim sisters intend to someday display all of the satellite reefs, including the Asheville Reef as part of the People’s Reef. More than 5,000 people on four continents have already created satellite reefs. Christine and Margaret Wertheim will speak about the project at UNC Asheville this coming fall.

Beginning in May, creators of the Asheville Reef will gather at five locations. Each group is seeking participation from the public and will be led by an experienced crafter. Additional locations will be added as the project evolves.

Crochet group locations:

* Asheville – men’s crochet group led by Mark Koven, assistant professor of Art, Owen Hall, UNC Asheville, email [email protected] for details.

* Hendersonville –1-4 p.m. on Thursdays, Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, 1181 Broyles Road, call 828/890-2050 for details.

* Brevard: Charlotte’s Fibers, 275 N. Broad Street, call 828/862-6886 for schedule.

* Cullowhee: Western Carolina University, call 828/227-3591 for details.

* Boone: Appalachian State University, call 828/262-5268 for details.

To accompany the local reef-making, the Center for Craft, Creativity & Design will display and add to the Asheville Reef as it is being created, through August 12, at 1181 Broyles Road in Hendersonville. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. weekdays. For more information or to participate, visit craftcreativitydesign.org or email [email protected].

To learn more about the “Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef” project, visit crochetcoralreef.org.

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