Knotted Shelter is coming to life. What would happen if we could dye our prayers and struggles a different color and see them in a new way? In a poetic gesture, 60,000 collected prayers are transformed from struggle to shelter as these prayers make up a permanent art installation within a public housing project on North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA. What happens when spiritual energy becomes palpable? Repurposed materials are given a new, vibrant, life and acts as a symbol of persistence, resilience and hope that moves toward a better tomorrow.
Knotted Shelter is finally finished this week but it is not the only thing that has a new home. Knotted Shelter is the new architecturally integrated installation in Project HOME’s new building on North Broad Street and will welcome residents in its lobby when the building opens. A continuation of Knotted Grotto from 2015, Knotted Shelter includes the 60,000 dyed strips of cloth with written prayers collected when the Pope came to visit Philadelphia. Participants’ written words are given new life and serve as a reminder of universal struggle and the power of a community coming together to create something purposeful with their hands.
To celebrate the completion of the project we interviewed studio artist and facility manager Brian Kane who has been hands on with the project since the beginning.
MLS: When did you start working on this project?
BK: That would have been in March of 2015.
How did you start working on Knotted Shelter?
At the time I was an intern with Project HOME in the Advocacy and Public Policy Office, so I was assigned to go down to the Knotted Grotto to be of assistance in whatever way was needed. After all of the festivities were over, Meg had invited me to come to her studio for a “thank you dinner,” so there were a lot of people here. Meg came up to me and she said that she heard that I was a working artist and would I like to work for her studio. And my jaw dropped and I said, “of course I would.”
How has being part of the Project HOME community impacted your work on Knotted Shelter?
I kind of took my own personal story, and my own struggles of trying to get through my recovery process and to get back to the workforce and see how I could fit into the workforce, you know? I was pretty anxious about that. Meg made it really easy. She’s a great person to work for, she’s very compassionate.
How do you think the new residents of the North Broad building will react when they walk by the installation every day?
I’m not sure, and I’d be interested in finding out. I’m a new resident there myself. I think in terms of initial reaction, for most of them who may notice, they’ll really like it. It’s way different than any of the other artwork throughout Project HOME- not making it better or less but, you know, it’s just different. I think for those who don’t know what’s involved with the piece itself, once they find out, I think they’ll get more on board with it if they weren’t before. They’ll be able to find out what all went behind it.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of working on Knotted Shelter?
The thing that stuck out to me the most was, just coming from my own personal perspective of recovery, it can be kind of selfish because you’re always focused on what you’re trying to do and what your problems are. Meg suggested that I read a lot of the ribbons to get an idea of what’s going on and what stuck out was that the more I thought I was an individual, the more I saw other people’s problems and the more I found out the more that we have in common. Because even if their problems aren’t my problems, I know somebody who has those problems- could be a family member, a friend or something else. It really showed that, for as much as we think we’re individuals, we have more in common.
Are there other things about this project you want people to know about?
I think it would be the point that we’re more connected than we really think we are. When things are happening to us it’s more dramatic and can really bring things down to a pinpoint. But when we start to think about it and broaden our perspective we get to see that we really do have more in common than we think.