Undoing the Knots / by Meg Saligman

Though I seek to delight and inspire through my work, on deeper level I strive to create a space for shared experiences and public engagement. At its heart, “Untie the Knots: A Contemporary Grotto”, a new citywide public art project, will engage with those who are most at risk and disregarded in our city. 

I am super psyched to be working with Sister Mary Scullion and her team at Project HOME on a large work for the Papal visit to Philadelphia this September. If anyone can create something meaningful and transformative out of an international event, it’s Sister Mary. She has a clear vision of what matters most. Our project will follow Sister M’s vision, beginning with the stories of those who are often neglected in our city. In 2015, It is imperative that the Homeless and Hungry are given a voice. The publicity of Pope Francis’s visit can bring these issues in Philadelphia to the forefront of the international conversation. It is a time of great potential for our city and it is important that world class art to be a part of the story. The fact that I have been chosen for this project moves me deeply. I feel great responsibility to make this very, very good.

We will create a contemporary grotto that will feature thousands of suspended knots, representing the struggles of those affected by homelessness. Some of the knots will include previously collected handwritten messages from Philadelphians depicting their personal stories and struggles. Those gathered for the Papal Mass will also be encouraged to tie knots of their own. If participants are feeling strong, they may untie a knot, to metaphorically carry someone else’s burden. The untying of knots represents a loosening of tension or pressure – a release. Through this shared action, the public collectively carries the weight of each other’s individual hardships. Burdens lighten as they become part of a communal experience, and I am hoping to facilitate this through a beautiful and meaningful communal work of public art. Those interacting with the installation will experience, through art, that a gesture of liberation for others will contribute to the liberation of themselves.

Stay tuned to see and participate more. Where it will be…what will it look like..why are we doing it… To see our very beginning, we just started @untietheknots and #untietheknots on INSTAGRAM.

We will be holding a knot tying workshop this week, on Wednesday May 20th at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (118-128 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA 19102). All are welcome!