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It's art made just for the pope's visit to Philly. But for the artists and the city, it's much more.

How a work of art is encouraging an entire community to discover what unites them.

Pope Francis is making his first trip to the U.S. this month, with stops in Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia.

Pope Francis has a packed schedule for his Sept. 22-27 visit. In addition to leading four Masses, the pontiff will stop at the White House, tour the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, visit a Pennsylvania prison, attend the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, and undoubtedly take part in thousands of selfies.


Selfies! Photo by Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images.

Millions are expected to greet him, so some of Philadelphia's best artists have been working nonstop for his arrival.

Meg Saligman, Dan Ostrov, and Stephanie Cole have been working overtime on their piece, "Knot Grotto," a 20-by-13-foot wooden sculpture built exclusively for Pope Francis' visit to the City of Brotherly Love.

"Knot Grotto" is staged outside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. Photo by Stephanie Cole and Dan Ostrov.

Saligman was commissioned by Sister Mary Scullion and the Mercy and Justice Initiative, an arm of Project HOME, one of the most successful outreach programs for people experiencing homelessness. As a woman of faith and Philadelphia luminary, Scullion hopes this papal visit will bring the community together.

"We're hoping that people are moved to acknowledge a higher power and to also acknowledge the power within ourselves to act," Scullion told the New York Times.

"Knot Grotto" was inspired by one of Pope Francis' favorite paintings, "Mary Untier of Knots."

The Johann Georg Schmidtner painting depicts Mary, surrounded by angels, untying knots to form a long strip.

Photo by Alejandro Pagni/AFP/Getty Images.

The knots symbolize struggles or dilemmas with unclear solutions. The devotional to the Holy Mother became one of Pope Francis' favorites after he completed his doctoral studies in Germany, where the prayer is particularly common.

As Saligman told ABC6 of their inspiration, "Our contemporary interpretation of this tradition is the knotted grotto of Mary clearing pathways for people to help them with their struggle."

Photo by Stephanie Cole and Dan Ostrov.

Many hands make light work, and many more hands are bringing "Knot Grotto" to life.

For the past six weeks, a full team of artists, assistants, and architectural consultants have been hard at work constructing the piece. From computer sketches, bracing, sanding, and everything in between, getting the grotto off the ground was truly a team effort.

It takes a team to make a grotto. Photo by Stephanie Cole and Dan Ostrov.

Saligman brought Ostrov and Cole (partners in art and in life) to lead the design and construction of the larger-than-life installation.

Constructed of ash and mahogany pieces made pliable in a steam chamber, the grotto is large enough for visitors to walk inside, where they'll be surrounded by dynamic curves and light.

"We've had to resort to some crazy measures to make this happen, but by God we're gonna do it," Cole told Upworthy.

Ostrov adds finishing touches to the top of "Knot Grotto." Photo by Stephanie Cole and Dan Ostrov.

More than beautiful, the piece is meant to unite people through their common struggles.

Visitors to the sculpture write down their challenges, wishes, hopes, and prayers, then tie them onto the grotto. All summer long, Saligman has been collecting knots by mail and at pop-up events in Philadelphia.

Tens of thousands have already been submitted, and more are expected to arrive ahead of Pope Francis' Mass in Philadelphia on Sept. 26.

Come join us outside of the Free Library! #weaving #Philadelphia #FrancisFund #PopeFrancis #MercyandJustice #ProjectHome #untietheknots
A photo posted by Meg Saligman (@megamural) on

The wishes, prayers, and struggles are diverse. Some are prayers for help with addiction; others struggle with student loans, or simply pray to be good parents.

"The fabric [knots] will come up through the middle ... so it will almost be like the struggles are ascending to heaven," Ostrov told Upworthy.

Photo by Stephanie Cole and Dan Ostrov.

Leaving prayers in the knotted grotto is just one part of Project HOME's three-part mission for the papal visit. The Mercy and Justice initiative is also encouraging visitors to contribute to The Francis Fund, a group of faith-based and non-religious organizations assisting people experiencing poverty and homelessness in the Philadelphia area, and to reach out to their elected officials to advocate legislation that encourages mercy and justice.

With nearly 2 million people descending on the city, the installation will serve as a peaceful place for fellowship.

With throngs of pilgrims and spectators expected in Philadelphia, Ostov hopes the grotto, on display now outside the The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul — the church where Pope Francis is leading Mass — will serve as a sanctuary in the crowded scene.

The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, where Pope Francis will lead Mass. Photo by Terry Robinson/Flickr (cropped).

"I'm kind of imagining this quiet area within this mass of people, and people would start reading the struggles ... and they have this moment of kinship."

Cole agreed, adding, "I think the general hope is that this will really bring more synergy to the city."

No matter what they're praying for or struggling with, Scullion hopes the papal visit will serve to unite people of all faiths and walks of life. As she told the New York Times, "We need God's grace to untie the knots, but we also need each other."

Every frame a picture.... Come add your knot to the grotto today through September 28th @megamural @mercy_justice @artprogram_projecthome #mercyandjustice #philadelphia #popefrancisph #instasculpture #instaart #woodart #woodworking #woodsculpture #sculpture
A photo posted by Daniel Ostrov & Stephanie Cole (@steamchamber) on

The "Knot Grotto" officially opens Thursday, Sept. 3 and will remain on display outside the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul until Monday, Sept. 28.

All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

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