Passersby walking past the Old Mint on Monday may have noticed an artistic takeover of its wrought iron fence: Colorful yarn-wrapped branches reach towards the sky, while more pieces of the humble textile are seen woven between the bars of the enclosure.

The artwork comes courtesy of San Francisco Art Institute student Cristina Velázquez, who has spent the last three years completing a dual degree at the school. The Old Mint is the site of this year's MFA and MA student exhibitions for SFAI, showing off work by graduating students.

Although students traditionally present their work indoors, Velázquez, 41, instead chose to exhibit her work outdoors — creating a welcoming presence to the Mint and engaging the neighborhood in the project.

"The branches themselves are borrowing from the idea of dreamcatchers, except I'm only borrowing the organic matter and the yarn," Velázquez said of her artwork. "With the wrapping of the yarn on the branches, I want us to consider peacefulness and good energy — that's what I'm trying to invoke with the idea of the dreamcatchers.

"We're not going to replicate the dreamcatcher, we're going to borrow elements and we're going to play with that," Velázquez added. "It's going to be colorful and so people will feel good energy, we'll feel peace and we'll feel hope because we're not feeling that through our current political state in the U.S."

Already the installation, with its Dr. Seuss-like colors and whimsical shapes, has drawn curious passersby to ask Velázquez a number of questions about the art. A few pieces have also "found a new home" — as Velázquez put it — which is the cost of a public outdoor art installation, she acknowledged.

"I love it. [Pedestrians] stop and say, 'I love it!' or 'I like it!' or they'll straight up say, 'What is it? what are you doing?'" Velázquez said of the attention along 5th Street. "They respond to the colors and to the textures, so it's been the gift of love that I'm giving to the public — it's coming back to me."

Velázquez has shown the pieces at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles as part of a residency she recently completed, as well as the SFAI Chestnut campus, with the Mint being the yarn-covered branches' final stop.

"The purpose of this project was to be outdoors and engage with the community, engage with people," Velázquez said of her installation. "...People have responded really well to it, they like the colors, they like the textures, they like that it's material that they recognize, they want to go home and try to make a couple of them on their own. So it's working out, it's paying off. I'm sending love and I'm receiving it back. It's been a blessing to be outdoors and in a public area."

The artwork from students will be open to the public beginning Friday and completing its run on Sunday. Students will deinstall the exhibits next week.

San Francisco Art Institute MFA\MA Exhibition. San Francisco Mint, 88 5th St. May 18-21, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Free.