Super Bowl Art Project Pulls Back the Covers on Homelessness

Sietske Tjalligii shares the blanket she designed for Project UNDERCOVER.

Sietske Tjalligii shares the blanket she designed for Project UNDERCOVER. (Courtesy: Annice Jacoby)

For the Super Bowl’s golden anniversary, Annice Jacoby is making a blanket.

The blanket doesn’t show the insignias of the two competing teams. The handmade bed covering doesn’t bear much at all, in fact, aside from the symbol of two hands raised palms-up, silk-screened in black and white.

While Super Bowl 50 will attract a deluge of well-heeled tourists to the Bay Area over the next few weeks, Jacoby’s blanket art project attempts to draw attention to a part of the city people would much rather ignore: those struggling with homelessness.

In response to Mayor Ed Lee’s plans to move the homeless community out of the streets in preparation for the Super Bowl, citing safety and legal issues, Jacoby, a co-founder of the art organization City of Poets, teamed up with several local partners including Coalition on Homelessness to create a series of handmade blankets to give away to people living on the streets.

“What we’re doing is geared around the fact that the city has chosen to have a clean sweep to make the city a little more appealing for the Super Bowl party,” Jacoby says. “The intense escalation of the issue has created a public numbness. Our goal is to use creativity to unite.”

Jacoby and her team are working around the clock to make the blankets. Their handiwork doubles as a waterproof poncho with inside pockets to hold a book, a sandwich and a pair of socks. Project collaborator has composed a special song, which the group hopes will inspire others to join their cause.

Volunteers will distribute the blankets to those in need during the nine-day Super Bowl event and encourage the public to use social media or speak to public officials directly every time they spot one of the special blankets out in the community.

“We wanted to start distributing and documenting on social media the week before the Super Bowl, since that’s when people will be really focusing on San Francisco on a national level,” says Mary Hogue, co-owner of Praxis, a locally-made clothing store and community art space, and one of the partners on the project.

Jacoby approached Hogue and her business partner Aerin Willey to host sewing circles which would not only gather the helping hands needed for production, but also encourage discussion on the issue of homelessness.

“It’s giving people something to do that’s helpful and creative,” Hogue says. “It’s an act of aggressive movement in a non-divisive way. The average person on the street has a sense of helplessness and we’re trying to change it.”

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