Finding sanctuary in new geodesic dome

If you need to take a break from the sunrays in Center City, you might want to pop by the giant geodesic dome recently installed at 11th and Locust streets.

There are hammocks and nooks to hang in, and the entire project, “Toward Sanctuary,” is encouraging city dwellers to share their thoughts about how Philadelphia can offer sanctuary toward marginalized citizens.

“We hope people [do] not just walk through, but sit for a moment and have a conversation with someone they’ve never met before,” said Acorn Swiggum, a cultural artist who worked on the project. The work is part of a larger series of works called “Philadelphia Assembled.”

The dome, titled “Toward Sanctuary,” has a sign inside begging the question, “How can Philadelphia become a true sanctuary?” 

This project is intended to compile acts of “resilience, resistance and community building” by collecting ideas and stories from the people who visit. It takes the concept of a sanctuary, often understood in relation to Philly’s controversial immigration policies, a step further.

“We call ourselves a sanctuary and tell our police officers not to cooperate with ICE [Immigrations Customs & Enforcement], but there are so many other forms of sanctuary that need to be created,” said project coordinator Phoebe Bachman, mentioning LGBT youth, sex workers and drug users as groups who struggle to find safe places.

There are corners to draw or write in, pillows for people to sit on and origami cranes constructed at Broad Street Ministry containing messages from clients and residents there. Sanctuary stewards trained in “radical hospitality” are welcoming people and encouraging them to participate in the project.

“People tend to be really delighted by the space,” Swiggum said. “It’s a place to be received and hosted. You can sit in the corner and hang out, but there are also people to be there with and enjoy it with you.”

The larger dome and its interior were designed by artists Mayyadah Alhumssi and Lynda Grace and built with artists from the Traction Company. This dome and other elements of Philadelphia Assembled will be exhibited at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Perelman Building in September.

The dome is open Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., through July 8. 

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