The Wounded City

A transitional project for those recovering from the pandemic who seek healing and connection


Fields of Knowledge
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Health Ecologies Lab


Aaron Levy, Jaelyn Wingard, Zoë Alter

Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce The Wounded City, a transitional project for those recovering from the pandemic who seek healing and connection, beginning July 2021. This project joins historical awareness of 16th Century plague rituals with contemporary critique of the lack of psychological supports today. As individuals and communities rapidly adjust to the reopening of society and recent fluctuations in public health guidelines, The Wounded City offers Slought as a liminal or "in-between" space supporting reflection about reentry into civic life and the value of the arts and humanities in processes of healing. For those seeking personal connection in these times, we are available during public hours for open conversation; we also welcome your artistic visions and proposals for healing processions, both real and imagined. Please send submissions to from July-August 2021, along with a short contextual description and budget, if applicable. One proposal will be funded and produced by Slought to take place in Philadelphia.

In "Healing Communal Wounds" (2019), Marie-Louise Leonard writes about processions organized in the city of Mantua in 16th Century Italy to help those afflicted by the plague heal their physical and psychological wounds. Developed through a collaboration between the Catholic Church and public health officials, the processions incorporated a variety of rituals, including walks, feasts, and prayers, and publicly celebrated the reintegration of those previously infected back into society. Once cleared of illness, those released from plague hospitals were met by members of confraternities, or voluntary associations focused on acts of charity, attended mass, and afterwards "sang hymns and litanies as they walked through infected streets." Those who participated in the processions were often among the city's poorer residents and in need of food, lodging, and other forms of charity. Those who were sick or quarantined were also invited to contribute to the singing and celebration from their homes. "Public health responses to plague epidemics were multifaceted," Leonard writes, "but ritual and symbolic aspects were fundamental to healing the individual and the community."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a more central preoccupation of public health officials has been the quantification of population health. This has been made evident by the innumerable graphs and dashboards that have tracked daily trends in infection, mortality, and vaccination. Missing from these statistics, however, are the personal tragedies of illness and suffering that epidemics unleash, and the need for rituals and gestures of communal healing following pervasive trauma. Largely ignored by journalism and public policy have been the psycho-social effects of the pandemic, and the challenges of adapting to uncertainty and shifting public health guidelines.

With an awareness of historical precedents and the aforementioned concerns in mind, we ask: What might a contemporary healing procession look like? How can the arts help people who have experienced trauma heal in the absence of public policy? If The Wounded City seeks to acknowledge the physical and psychological wounds that define the contemporary polity, it does so with the understanding that cultural organizations can and should play a pivotal role in this process by providing space for rituals that perform the work of care and healing. As we gradually re-enter a society that has been both open and closed, accessible and inaccessible, we invite you to gather and engage us at Slought.

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Is there a deadline?

We ask that all submissions to The Wounded City be received by August 15, 2021.

What forms of media can I submit?

We kindly request that all submissions be in digital format (i.e. text, image, film, etc.) We unfortunately do not have the resources to store or return physical artifacts and sketches. All submissions should be sent to

What will happen to my submission?

One proposal will be ultimately selected, produced, and funded by Slought. The artist's proposal will be shared on the website, as will an invitation to the public to join the public procession.

Our goal is to be as democratic as possible by digitally storing all submissions we receive, including those not selected, in our archives.

"Public health responses to plague epidemics were multifaceted, but ritual and symbolic aspects were fundamental to healing the individual and the community. [...]

In Mantua, this idea can be taken further, as the convalescent processions that walked through the streets acted as a ritual thread with the purpose of bringing the wounded city together, given added resonance and power by those who had survived the disease."

-- Marie-Louise Leonard, "Healing Communal Wounds," Science Museum Group Journal, 2019