How A Pittsburgh Artist Demonstrates ‘Growth Through Grief’

'The Remembering Room” features an interactive experience demonstrating the different stages of grief that Amanda Filippelli faced through recent years.
Remembering Astra


Pittsburgh artist and writer Amanda Filippelli is shining light on a dark period in her life through a new art exhibit. 

Located at the Atithi Studios in Sharpsburg, “The Remembering Room” features an interactive experience demonstrating the different stages of grief that Filippelli faced in recent years. 

The exhibit, which opened March 9, is based on her book of poetry of the same name that details the experience of her father’s death caused by diabetes at age 61. Two weeks after his death, Filippelli learned she was pregnant. 

“The juxtaposition of those things was really difficult,” says Filippelli, who was part of Pittsburgh Magazine’s class of 40 Under 40 in 2016. “On the one hand, grieving while I was pregnant because I didn’t want to create a sad environment for myself. On the other hand, taking care of my mom [because] the grief was so big and so difficult for her.”

Remembering Headshot


One year after the death of her father, her dog also died of diabetes.

After her son turned 6 months old, Filippelli wanted to use her artistic skills as a way to express her emotions after a period of loss and pain. 

The artist has separated the exhibit into four rooms, each describing a specific stage of grief that she specifically experienced. Those stages differ from the traditional five stages of grief, or the Kübler-Ross model, she says. 

“I had experienced something totally different,”  she says. “Something that felt more true to who I am and also more expansive than those stages, and it turned into these four rooms.” 

The four stages in the exhibit are Desert, Mnemosyne (the Greek goddess of memory), Grief Womb and Astral rooms, each incorporating interactive activities that allow individuals to process their own experiences of grief. 

“My goal with this entire project was to find closure and deal with my own grief, but also create space for people to talk about this in a more honest way, so that people aren’t grieving alone,” Filippelli says. 

Remembering Desert Room


The Desert room displays “the initial static of silence” that she endured when she found her father dead at his home. The room is also filled with handwritten poems and notes. Visitors can add their own written notes to leave in the room for others to see.

The second room, Mnemosyne, explains how Filippelli was “plunged into a deep ocean” of memories of her father. In the room, a mannequin is positioned in a bathtub, with a false bottom symbolizing a deep ocean. A compilation of home videos and audio play, and visitors are encouraged to listen and write on the room’s designated wall.

The third room, Grief Womb, symbolizes how she learned of her pregnancy soon after her father’s death. The room depicts trees growing out of the walls, demonstrating a woman being tangled into other bodies, and guests are encouraged to leave items of their choosing in the womb centered in the room. 

Remembering Greek Memory God


The final room, Astral, is described as “when grief folds space-time, we heal,” she says. A mannequin is positioned in a rowboat, symbolizing how grief is a never-ending journey and how “our souls are ferried to the afterlife.” The rowboat includes an extra seat that guests may sit in to contemplate their own experiences.

The free exhibit is open through April 16. 

“I wanted to make sure that it was very accessible,” says Filippelli, who lives in Baldwin. “Anything that I can do, if I can use my own privilege or platform to provide free spaces, that’s what I always try to do.” 

As her son’s first birthday approaches on March 17, Filippelli emphasized how therapeutic yet anxious the creation process of the project was, and how she hopes it allows others to open up about their own struggles with grief and loss.

“I really want people to see the growth that’s available in grief,” she says. “I think there’s an opportunity in grief, and that when we take advantage of that opportunity, it allows us to keep a connection with loved ones that have passed.” 

To learn more about “The Remembering Room,” visit here.

Categories: The 412