Congrats on a Fantastic Unveiling, Knotted Grotto!

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2016 UPDATE: What has become of our Knotted Grotto? Lead artist Meg Saligman reported on social media that the grotto was now part of a landscaping installation in Chinatown.

Eastfallslocal collage Exhibit

POST-POPE UPDATE:  Pope Fran visited (and blessed!) the Knotted Grotto during his stay in Philly! 


You know you’ve done something cool when all three local news networks show up, right?! Congrats to Dan & Stephanie’s incredible team, we look forward to following the Knotted Grotto to its new home on the Parkway, awaiting Pope Fran’s historic visit to Philadelphia.

Thanks to all the East Falls locals who came out to show support for art, tie a knot for hope, and show some love to the good folks of Project Home, the homeless advocacy group who commissioned this art piece.

Thanks also to the sponsors who made the event possible.

Philadelphia Brewing Company. Nancy Barton and Tony Madjor donated 6 cases of Walt Wit and Kenzinger lager.

East Falls Beverage. John Kenney provided ice and tubs to the event. He also donated bottles of “artistic inspiration” to the Steamchamber crew throughout the construction process.

Epicure Cafe. Tom and Arlene Leschak added a great Philly touch to the event with their donation of 150 soft pretzels.

Eastfallslocal.Sponsor Collage

How the Sculpture Came Together

Ha — we know about your giant sculpture for the Pope, quietly coming together on Ridge Ave. And now we wanna see it! Get ready for a pop-up art exhibition next week, where East Fallsers will get a chance to meet the artists and even contribute to this fantastic art piece before it’s reassembled at Logan Square. But first, meet the team online here! 

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flyer created by stephanie

While it’s a no-brainer that Philadelphia would commission a dramatic art piece for the Holy Father’s visit this September, we were surprised to learn Meg Saligman‘s story-high, interactive sculpture — featured on & in CityPaper — was being assembled right here in East Falls. By a team of artists who’ve lived and worked along this stretch of Scotts & Ridge for years, yet, under the radar. “There’s a whole underground art community here!” says Dan Ostrov, co-owner of SteamChamber art studio with his wife, Stephanie Cole.

Well, they were underground. Cat’s outta the bag now, though — Dan can thank his buddy, Harry, a free-spirit from Temple’s Ultimate Frisbee team (back in the day, Dan used to coach), who showed up on his porch earlier this Summer just as Dan & Stephanie were getting pulled into this Pope Project. He’s since become an integral part of the team.


Harry spilled the beans to us when we stumbled upon him slack-lining at Inn Yard Park and struck up a conversation. When he told us about a “giant sculpture for the Pope” he was working on with Stanton Street artists, we begged him to hook us up with a peek at least.

What a great crew! While Dan & Stephanie have lived in East Falls for years (they liked their rental on Stanton so much they bought their own home right up the street), they’re originally from Wisconsin & North Carolina, respectively. Dan found his way to Philly working on his MFA in sculpting from Temple’s Tyler College of Art. He discovered our area via East Falls Glass Works, when he was playing with adding glass to his art (he works primarily in wood).

Stephanie’s also an artist, although her education is more “practical” — graphic design, fashion marketing. When she & Dan got together, she was feeling restless with her job and suddenly an opportunity popped up to join him in an art project with Old City’s Center for Art in Wood. Their life gelled professionally, and also personally: the pair married in 2013, and since then they’ve been diligently working on their dream, a company they call “Steam Chamber” that they hope will grow to support more public art projects like this one with reknowned public artist Meg Saligman.

Eastfallslocal mary undoer of knots

The sculpture was inspired by one of Pope Francis’ favorite paintings, “Mary Untier of Knots,” that is also a devotion to the Blessed Mother for peace, reconciliation, and freedom from pain through faith. 

The artwork shows Mary surrounded by angels, untangling a long ribbon — a symbol for smoothing life’s difficulties. As the sculpture comes together physically, it’s been gathering spiritual momentum on sites like where people from all over the world have shared their struggles to be written on ribbons knotted and woven into a dynamic representation of the Fabric of Life we all share.

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So the basic structure is an open globe shape — they’re steam-bending wood around a series of profiles, similar to the way ships are built. Harry has been lathing “thousands and thousands” of thin wooden strips that will be woven in & around the framework. There will be a reflective pool in the middle, and an open “oculus” at the top, where wooden flagpoles will add height and drama. And the ribbons! Over 30,000 so far — not counting the ones from East Falls, to be tied next week (including yours, perhaps).

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The project is humming right along!

As a special thank-you to East Falls for accommodating such a massive undertaking (Mark Sherman came in at the last minute with a big garage space for assemblage), the artists are opening their doors for a celebratory Preview Exhibit where we can come down, check it out, and even tie our own knots into the piece!

Please come by the garage at 4012 Ridge (right by East Falls Beverage & the CrossFit place) this Thursday, August 27th from 5 pm to 9 pm (more details posted to our Facebook ) to give this structure a big East Falls send-off before it graces the square during Pope Francis’ visit this Fall. After September, by the way, the sculpture will become part of a permanent installation for Project Home, the non-profit homeless advocacy organization who commissioned the piece.

Eastfallslocal meg saligman tie ribbons

“We are creating a story of beauty and engagement,” said artist Meg Saligman, “Undoing the Knots is a tangible object that’s growing. We must embrace the dialog within ourselves and others. The core of religion is love and acceptance.”  Come meet Meg, Dan, Stephanie and the team of talented artists all working to pull this exciting project together!

Undoing The Knots will be located in front of the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul on the Parkway, where Pope Francis will hold a mass and greet millions. If you can’t make it down there, here’s a great chance to send a little bit of yourself His Holiness’ way.

PS:  OMG you must check out @SteamChamber’s Instagram! Here’s a run-down of all the characters you’ll see (as described by Stephanie in a recent email):

Elliott Lamborn is our architectural design consultant, a Temple Alum  — his CAD skills helped us create the stable structure we wanted, without sacrificing the lightness of our vision.

Sara Breznicky (Lead fabricator, former assistant to Dan in the glass hot shops at Tyler) — she’s our jack of all trades, a total badass builder who has done it all. She’s been integral. Also, if you’re looking for another cool building project, she is assisting with Philadelphia’s very first “Earth Ship” a 100% sustainable home for another artist in West Philly (@steadfasthoney on Instagram)

Thaddeus Wascheck (fabricator) Current Student at Salem Community College (Dan taught him in a Glass glass there)

Daniel Freedman (fabricator) Kohelet Yeshiva High School alum where Dan currently teaches. He was with us at the start but had a family vacation so we lost him at the beginning of Aug

Harry Friedman (fabricator…of awesomeness) Also a Temple Alum. He’s an avid festival attendee and half of the retail collective Abidabi selling rice-sack clothing from India! (check out his Instagram @abi.dabi)

Savannah Hudicka (intern working on photo documentation, stop-motion video & pitching in wherever she’s needed)

SPECIAL THANKS  to our next-door neighbor Victor who has lent us numerous tools and supplied invaluable advice during the course of this project. And our other neighbors Kathy and Nancy who surprised us with delicious pizza and much needed water on one of the hottest days we’ve had!

ANOTHER SPECIAL SHOUT-OUT  to East Falls Beverage for generously supplying complimentary work beers and enthusiastic support.





  1. This is SO COOL. What an awesome thing to be happening in the neighborhood. I’m glad to know something so serendipitous is happening inside that garage.

    How will they get the sculpture to Center City?

    Also, can’t believe I’d never heard of “Mary, Untier of Knots” until now.

    • Hey: The sculpture is modular. Twelve pieces in all that screw together. Haven’t heard of Untier before either but a pretty cool play on it by Meg, Daniel, Stephanie, and crew.

  2. Mark your calendars… looks like the sculpture’ll be exhibited Thursday 5 pm to 9 pm. Stay tune for updates to this post, and to our Facebook, thanks!

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