'Craftivists' target Staunton school sign with knitted kudzu vines

Photo provided by The Kudzu Project

STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) — A school sign in Staunton was briefly covered with knitted kudzu Monday night, as part of an effort by local knitters.

The Kudzu Project, described as a "guerrilla art installation," targeted the sign for Robert E. Lee High School just before a Staunton School Board meeting began.

The mass of knitted vines first appeared last month on a state of a Confederate soldier standing outside the Albemarle County Courthouse in Charlottesville.

The group of over 30 “craftivists” behind the project added a sign at that point, explaining the idea that kudzu is linked to romantic notions about the past and revisionist Civil War history.

It also said kudzu tends to grow on things that are abandoned or no longer relevant.

Some members of the Staunton community have called for the school board to change the name of R.E. Lee High School, arguing for a return to the name of Staunton High School.

A petition for a name change was launched by "Residents for Staunton High School" in 2015, but the movement gained more traction this year after the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, sparked by the city's decision to remove a Robert E. Lee statue, ended in deadly violence.

In response to that ongoing debate, the "craftivists" carried out what they call a “flash installation” of the knitted kudzu, covering the sign just long enough for photos to be taken, before they removed the project, leaving a lone strand in place.

The images were then shared to The Kudzu Project’s website, as well as their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

In a release sent to local media, the group cited an opinion piece published in the News Leader by Mary Baldwin University history professor Clayton Brooks, who traced the history of the school's name to an appeal made by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1914, when the group championed what has become known as the "Lost Cause" movement.

An analysis by the Southern Poverty Law Center found that 21 schools in Virginia are named after well-known Confederate generals. Most were built either between 1950 and 1970, around the time Brown v. Board of Education mandated school integration, or in the early 1900's when Jim Crow laws were prevalent throughout the South.

The Kudzu Project website also offers a suggestion on what to do with Confederate statues if a lawsuit preventing their removal, like the one working its way through Charlottesville courts, is successful.

"Plant kudzu around them and allow it to grow over and eventually obscure them," it stated.