In addition to the Core Collection of reefs constructed by Christine and Margaret Wertheim, the Crochet Coral Reef project encompasses a community program in which citizens of various cities and countries create their own local Satellite Reefs. As of 2020, more than 40 Satellite Reefs have been made worldwide, including in Chicago, New York, London, Melbourne, Santa Cruz (California), Scottsdale (Arizona), Madison (Wisconsin), Asheville (North Carolina), England, Ireland, Latvia, Germany, and the United Arab Emirates. More than 10,000 people have contributed to this ever-growing woolen archipelago. The first Satellite Reef was constructed in 2007 by the citizens of Chicago, hosted by the Jane Addams Hull House Museum and the Chicago Humanities Festival. Below is a chronological list of all Satellite Reefs and their hosting institutions.
If your organization would like to start a Satellite Reef, please send us a formal inquiry. We welcome queries from different types of institutions at different scales. Some reefs are gigantic, other small and intimate. Some involve a few dozen participants, others have engaged nearly a thousand people. At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, 900+ people contributed models from all 50 US states and a dozen other countries. At the Museum Kunst der Westküste on the island of Fohr off the coast of Germany, over 700 citizens across Germany and Denmark participated, with contributions also coming from Austria and the Netherlands. Far-flung contributors send in their models by post. In Dublin, a reef was hosted by the Science Gallery at Trinity College, Ireland’s foremost academic institution; while in Melbourne, the project was enacted at the Burranja Cultural Center, which in part serves women subject to domestic violence. In the UAE, the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute hosted a reef constructed around traditional Emirati fishing baskets also invoking the arabesque forms of Islamic mosques; and at the Hayward Gallery in London’s Southbank Center, UK crafters fabricated their reef around a series of giant plaster-cast “reef balls” designed to emulate the concrete structures scientists build to encourage growth at sites of living reef destruction.
Satellite Reefs have been made at art galleries, science museums, universities, colleges, libraries, civic centers, and schools. The project has also been done in a women’s prison in Indiana, and at a girl’s juvenile detention center in Houston. Each new site adds further layers of social complexity and human richness, extending an experience of making art to people in diverse communities and settings.
Reefs in the time of COVID
The Crochet Coral Reef’s Satellite program offers a unique model for art-making in the time of COVID. With much of the world in lockdown, three Satellite Reefs are currently in process: one at the Helsinki Art Museum in Finland, where the ensuring reef will be featured in the 2021 Helsinki Biennial; one at the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, where the citizens’ reef will be accompanied by a major exhibition of the IFF’s own reefs; and a third at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Bouyed by the meditative rhythms of crochet and an opportunity to embrace a powerful positive retort to eco-apocalypse, thousands of crafters are contributing to these woolen installations, which will all be exhibited for public enjoyment in 2021.