Larger-than-life art installation helps Gilmour students weave a more tightly knit future

How far can you go with 20 miles of yarn? Gilmour Academy is poised to find out.


In mid-September, the Gates Mills-based private school unveiled an “inclusiveness canopy” strewn together by students, faculty, staff, and alumni during its annual Founders Week celebration. Situated next to St. Mary’s Lake on the Gilmour campus, the colorful art installation embodies the school’s chosen focus for the 2019-2020 school year.


“Each year, we pick a theme based on our core values from the Holy Cross mission,” says Whitney Daly, director of mission integration for Gilmour Academy. “This year, our school theme is inclusiveness.”


Inspired by The Unity Project, the canopy came together over three days as approximately 700 participants wrapped string around poles with identifiers describing their life experiences. Identifiers included statements like, “I have lost a loved one;” “I was born outside of Ohio;” “I’m an introvert;” and “I have more than one family.”


Gilmour Academy Lower School and Upper School students work together on an "inclusivemess canopy."The idea? To show the many ways in which we are all interconnected. 

“Coming up with the identifiers gave us an opportunity to start a lot of really good conversations about who we are, the things that matter in our lives, and the things that bring us together,” says Daly. “Your string tells your story.”

Daly estimates close to 20 miles of repurposed yarn were used in creating the canopy, which was obtained from Upcycle Parts Shop. To further reduce the project’s eco-impact, the yarn will continue to be used throughout the year in Gilmour’s lower school art classes.

According to Daly, the age range of participants spanned toddlers in the school’s early Montessori program all the way up to faculty and staff—all of whom feel more closely connected after setting off the school year in such a meaningful way.

"One of the most
impactful things for me was that the canopy wasn’t just a symbol of inclusivity, but [that the act of making it] also facilitated inclusivity," says Daly. "I have three of my own kids here, and it was really powerful to string a string with them. The canopy made a profound visual impact, but it also helped bring about what we were hoping to symbolize."

Read more articles by Jen Jones Donatelli.

As an enthusiastic CLE-vangelist, Jen Jones Donatelli enjoys diving headfirst into her work with FreshWater Cleveland. Upon moving back to Cleveland after 16 years in Los Angeles, Jen served as FreshWater's managing editor for two years (2017-2019) and continues her work with the publication as a contributing editor and host of the FreshFaces podcast. Along with her work at FreshWater, she is the editor-of-chief of Edible Cleveland and a contributing editor for Destination Cleveland. When not typing the day away at her laptop, she teaches writing and creativity classes for Creative Groove, Literary Cleveland, Cleveland State University, and more. Jen is a proud graduate of Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.
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