For the first time ever, the Middle Way House is partnering with the City of Bloomington for the annual Wrapped in Love event.
Wrapped in Love began in 2012 as an art display by decorating trees around Bloomington with sweaters that symbolize warmth of community. This is the first year the City of Bloomington will be partnering with the Middle Way House to spread awareness of domestic violence, sexual violence, and human trafficking. The event will take place Oct. 1 through the end of the year.
The Middle Way House has been providing services to people in crisis since 1971. It offers support services for survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking which includes emergency shelter, a 24/7 help and crisis line, on-scene advocacy, transitional and permanent housing solutions, legal advocacy and education and prevention programs according to the website. The Middle Way House serves six counties in Indiana which include Monroe, Greene, Lawrence, Owen, Morgan and Martin.
There will be a kickoff celebration for Wrapped in Love at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Switchyard Park Pavilion. The event will include a buffet dinner, a dessert auction, a history video about the project and going over a map of the trees.
Tickets for the event are $50 and people can also donate money that goes toward the Middle Way House’s general fund. Most of the funds will go right back into the organization so they can continue to help survivors.
Carrie Stillions, executive director at the Middle Way House said the celebration has not been this big in past years.
“We’ve previously had our celebration on the courthouse lawn with a couple speakers and a yarn cutting with the mayor,” Stillions said. “Because we are partnering with the city, we thought it would be a cool opportunity to bring more awareness to the art installation project and what it stands for.”
Stillions said they will send out a request in the spring or summer for fiber artists to submit their work for the project. Fiber artists are artists who use natural materials to make their art.
“One was done by a Middle Way House staff, but generally they are done by community members who are passionate about domestic violence awareness and fiber art,” Stillions said.
Maria Douglas, development director at Middle Way House, said they had the idea to do the public art display to show support for survivors in the community so they could hopefully feel supported.
“It is our hope that if there is a survivor in need of services that they will see our crisis line number on the signs and give us a call to help support them through whatever healing they want to go through,” Douglas said.
The Bloomington Board of Public Works passed an ordinance in November 2022 that said all public art displays could not have any words, letters, numbers or logos on them. The ordinance was passed in response to a federal court order after the city was sued for rejecting an “All Lives Matter” mural. Due to the ordinance, the Middle Way House went to the City of Bloomington so they could continue doing the event.
“In order to do this program again this year the city basically had to adopt the program,” Douglas said.
Crystal Ritter, interim director of public engagement for the office of the mayor, said the Middle Way House approached them and it was something they were happy to support.
“This program is truly a city collaboration; it involves several departments within the city like the office of the mayor, economic sustainable development department as well as the parks department,” Ritter said.
Ritter said the role of the city in the project includes Holly Warren, the assistant director for the arts in the economic sustainable development department, helping the Middle Way House staff review tree sweater designs and Haskell Smith, the city’s urban forester in the parks and recreation department, who will assist in choosing which trees will be selected for the project.
“Middle Way House really had to communicate with so many different branches in the city to make that coordination a little bit easier,” Ritter said. “Once that conversation was had it just fell right into the things that the office of the mayor wants to support in the community.”
Ritter said all partnerships are reviewed annually, but she thinks they will continue to support this in the future.
“In the past the city has supported the Wrapped in Love tree sweaters, but the other part of the partnership agreement is as the City of Bloomington we are financially supporting a little bit this year,” Ritter said.
The Middle Way House offers a 24/7 help and crisis line which can be reached at 812-336-0846.