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“What love, what care, what service, and what travail” - William Penn’s Prayer for Philadelphia 

This thesis work is timely, yet it is more eerily relevant than originally intended. My work often explores issues around death, trauma, and mental health. Through addressing these ubiquitous and often heavy experiences, I seek to dissolve the stigma and silence around them. Recently, this work has focused itself on the various barriers to care that patients encounter, especially at the intersection of these themes. Particularly, I am examining the recent closure of Hahnemann University Hospital by demonstrating visual data through performances, sculptural installations, and zines. By translating these numbers into a variety of physical forms, I am embodying the severity of this event in a tangible and accessible way. When I started the work, the current pandemic had yet to take hold of the globe. It is now more applicable as not just the city of Philadelphia, but the world grapples with this challenge and how best to address it. It is through great reverence and respect that I create and display this work—it is my visual love letter to Hahnemann, a truly great and monumental once-standing place of care and healing. We are not the same without you.

Last summer, Hahnemann University Hospital declared bankruptcy. Located on Broad St. between Vine and Race, this Center City teaching hospital had become a care safety net for those in need. Many of its patients were below the poverty line, on Medicaid, unhomed, or uninsured. On September 6th, 2019, after 171 years of practice, the doors to the hospital closed forever. This work explores various barriers to care that patients encounter through contemporary healthcare as focused through the lens of the Hahnemann University Hospital closure through physical embodiment.

Chelsey Webber-Brandis is a visual and performing artist from Southern California. She began her career studying dance and theatre arts in Los Angeles. There, she worked with a variety of talented performers and art spaces including Lita Albuquerque, Ry X, and Machine Project. She gained her BA in Fine Arts from Arcadia University where she received the Spruance-Daumier Award for creative excellence. Since then, she has worked on a number of public art projects in the Philadelphia area, including mural work with David Guinn and Mural Arts. Currently, Webber-Brandis is focused on the representation of grief and trauma in contemporary art and has received training through the Trauma Education Network and Jefferson University’s annual Trauma Training Conference. Most recently, she co-presented the session Trigger(ed): Ethics of Witnessing at the 2020 Common Field Convening.

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