Meet the Team
Born Agata Oleksiak, in 1978, in industrial Poland, OLEK's art allowed her to leave her gritty, narrow-minded hometown of Silesia. Through colors and conceptual exploration, OLEK's art examines sexuality, feminist ideas, and the evolution of communication, all with meticulous detail and total candor. OLEK consistently pushes the boundaries of fashion, art, crafts, and public art, fluidly combining the sculptural and the fanciful. With the old-fashioned technique of crocheting, she has taken the ephemeral medium of yarn to express everyday occurrences and inspirations, thus creating a metaphor for the complexity and interconnectedness of our bodies and our psychological processes. OLEK's bursts of bright colors often mask political and cultural critiques woven into the fibers of installations, mirroring her respect for artists and writers. She highlights that which already exists in real time, in our environment.
As an active supporter of women's rights, sexual equality, and freedom of expression, OLEK has traveled around the globe for her community-based projects, using the broad appeal of her work to express solidarity with those stifled by oppressive laws. Whether protesting domestic violence in India, highlighting the struggles and hopes of Syrian refugee women in Sweden, fighting for equal rights for the LGBTQ community in Russia, or raising awareness of ocean pollution in Mexico, OLEK’s work explores the sociocultural challenges of our time and hopes to create real change. Her recent work aims to empower women by promoting equality, and her Love Across the USA project is a series of community-based public murals in cities across the U.S. that depict inspiring women from history.
OLEK's sculptures and performances have been exhibited in galleries, museums, and public spaces worldwide, including Art Basel and Wynwood Walls in Miami, the Brooklyn Museum in New York, and The Smithsonian in Washington DC. Her work is included in the permanent collections at URBAN NATION Museum for Contemporary Urban Art in Berlin, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Avesta Art Museum in Avesta, Sweden, and the New York Historical Society, as well as in several private collections, including those of Antonio Banderas and Mike D from the Beastie Boys. OLEK has also completed a number of prestigious artist residency programs from Instituto Sacatar in Brazil to LMCC in New York.
OLEK’s work has been covered in numerous publications, including the Smithsonian Magazine, Creators (VICE), the Huffington Post, The New Yorker, and New York Magazine. OLEK has been named one of the top artist Instagram accounts to follow by Christie’s and Art Net, and Artsy name her as an artist giving knitting a place in art history.
OLEK currently lives and works in Brooklyn.
Kelly Kocinski Trager was Olek’s English teacher in Katowice, Poland a lifetime ago. She told Olek that Poland was not ready for her and encouraged Olek to move to New York City. Six months after Kelly returned to the United States, Olek was at her doorstep. A lifetime later, in addition to being a transactional entertainment, business, and intellectual property lawyer assisting artists, performers and arts-based businesses; working as a professor in the Design Management and Arts and Cultural Management departments at Pratt Institute in New York; and owning Trager Contemporary, a fine art gallery in Charleston, SC, Kelly is Team Olek’s project manager for Love Across the USA . She is also a yoga and gyrotonic teacher, runner, and recovering professional modern dancer.
As a student of Fashion, art and life, Linette Knight has learned that creating ways for people from all walks of life to express themselves through color and a range of different fabrics and mediums is what gives her life. Her great passion is to open doors for people to find their greatest expression of self through everyday fashion and fiber art. Throughout high school and college Linette learned that the best way to bring her designs to life couldn't be taught in a class, so she hit the streets and strolled art galleries.
Originally from Newburgh, New York, Linette adopted an unapologetic edge to her style. After moving to Raleigh, NC she learned to incorporate clean sophistication to that edge, giving her a look outside the box and truly outside the norm. However, she felt she needed something to tie it all together. Looking to her creative family of artists and designers, and her husband coming from a graffiti and street art background, she decided to step away from fashion design and try her hand at Yarn Bombing. Linette covered everything she could in yarn, from bicycles to motorcycles. In 2012, she found direction through the largest yarn bombing art installation Raleigh, NC has ever seen: assisting artist Olek, from Poland, in completely covering Flanders Art Gallery from top to bottom, including a yarn covered farm tractor featured inside. Since she and her husband had already started a mural business a few years earlier and had been painting and creating fashion for Raleigh's largest creative festival, SparkCon, Linette decided it was time for her to branch out with her new love. So in the summer of 2013 she started crocheting hats, scarves, gloves, and dolls. In 2014 she decided that wasn't enough, so she took things even further and started designing fashions, focusing mainly on dresses. The goal was to take the box that closes in what crochet is naturally, break it down, and share the look, feel, and colorful expression of the new crochet world, while making people look and feel great.
Fast forward to 2017, when she was blessed with another chance to work with Olek and forge an even greater bond, while connecting with people from dozens of different backgrounds. This new project allowed Linette both to celebrate one of her favorite singers, Nina Simone, and tell a little of her own story. She found that she and Olek share very similar stories and a passion for fighting for women's rights, the rights of all people, and against abuse, through the weaving of amazing webs of color and shapes. To be a part of the Love Across the USA team is not only a great honor, but also brings her journey full circle.
In March of 2017, Lisa Capogrossi Schneider showed up at the inaugural Love Across the USA workshop in Rochester NY. A longtime admirer of public art, she was excited at the prospect of actually being able to participate in its creation. She didn’t know how to crochet, but was eager to learn. After many false starts, and lots of encouragement from Olek, Lisa finally produced not one, but three beautiful squares for the Susan B. Anthony mural. The energy used in creating those squares resulted in a very dedicated volunteer. She became one of our lead people who helped to manage, finish, and install the mural in Rochester. Among her favorite moments was her time on the roof of the building, standing side-by-side with Olek, getting the piece in place. Considering this project a life-changing experience in many ways, she has since volunteered for a number of other public art projects. Lisa is now serving as our outreach director, and is thrilled to be tasked with finding other communities to experience the magic of Love Across the USA.
Rohn Strong is a clothing designer, textile artist, and author who resides and works in Raleigh, North Carolina. He excels in the use of color configurations and the art of transforming geometric forms with traditional craft. He explores the potential of chromatic and tonal scales, visual planes, and volume within multi-dimensional framework.
As a textile artist, Strong pursues the relationship of contemporary textile design and the historical significance of craft in daily life. His work stems from a place where the handmade was a necessity not a luxury. Through his work, Strong hopes his audience can experience our collective histories with an expansive and compelling perspective.
Strong has also used his skill to become one of the most prolific knitting and crochet designers in the world. He is the author of four books, including the bestselling, Step Into Crochet. A sought-after instructor, Rohn travels the country teaching workshops and is also the knitting instructor on the popular television show, Knit and Crochet Now.
With his work in the local textile community, he had the opportunity to work with Olek on her project, Love Across the USA, when she visited Raleigh, NC. He was energized by the message and community-based art installation. In 2019 he enthusiastically joined Team Olek.
Whitney Spivey has been knitting and crocheting for 20+ years. In 2014, a few days after moving to NYC, she met Olek and, on one of the coldest days ever recorded in New York's history, helped her install a piece called There's No Such Thing as Part Freedom. Since then, she has worked on many of Olek's projects, including a double-decker bus in NYC and an obelisk in Chile. She’s comfortable crocheting in a cherry picker or at home designing sweaters.
Since 2015, Whitney has worked for String Yarns in NYC as Marketing Manager and In-House Photographer. At this luxury knitting boutique, she has been able to combine her love for fiber crafts with photography and graphic design. She also designs accessories and garments for both the String yarns brand and for Tahki Stacy Charles Fine Yarns.
Whitney has degrees in art and photography and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in psychology. She thinks of the meditative skills of knitting and crochet as their own form of therapy. When she doesn’t have yarn in hand, she’s cuddling with her rescue dog, Piper.