Cocoon Steelton: The Migrations of Many by Kate Browne

COCOON Steelton: The Migrations of Many

Kate Browne’s Cocoon series is about forced and voluntary migrations and the conflicts and epidemics that result. Over the past decade, she has interviewed hundreds of people for her artwork at sites in México City, two in Mississippi, Paris, the Bronx, and most recently Miskolc, Hungary. Wherever it is produced, Cocoon is, in essence, an artwork about creating a place and a moment in which all voices can be heard, and lost histories reconnected to the land.

Cocoon is a 10-by-26-foot illuminated sculpture surrounded by formal portraits from Steelton, PA. Viewers walk through the sculpture and they’ll hear the stories of Steelton, the steel mill, and history. The stories come from Kate Browne’s interviews that focus on the reality of living in a small town with a single-industry economy where jobs have shrunk considerably since the 1950s. Today the situation is far from over, as the steel plant changes hands again, it is important to document the existence of Steelton and the mill, and how the history of the single economy, local unions, and generations of families, tell their stories and make decisions about their future now.

Kate Browne’s interviews include United Steelworkers Local 1688 members, elected municipality members, churches and clubs, business owners, descendants of families who migrated, and especially women and men who worked at the plant, and those who still do today.

In Fall 2023, Kate Browne will build the Cocoon sculpture in the public space where the town faces the factory, along North Front Street, between the Borough Hall and the giant Cleveland-Cliffs’ building at the mill. On the night of the performance installation, people will carry small white lights with their family’s place of origin written on them and proceed to the illuminated Cocoon sculpture, placing the lights around it. Their large-scale portraits will be projected on an outdoor surface as they walk through the illuminated 10-by-26-foot Cocoon sculpture, listening to their stories, and looking at photographs of memorabilia woven into the sculpture’s interior. The sculpture and associated portraits will then go on view in the Susquehanna Art Museum’s Lehr Gallery from February 10 – May 19, 2024.


Since 2008 Kate Browne has worked on her international series COCOON that focuses on sites of forced and voluntary migrations and the epidemics that follow. As part of this series, she has created six performance installation works called Cocoons in Paris, Mexico City, Greenwood and Jackson, Mississippi, the South Bronx, and most recently Miskolc, Hungary. Currently, she is working on Cocoons in a small Pennsylvania steel town and the coal fields of West Virginia. Previously, she created plays in various New York City theaters. Her practice draws from a variety of disciplines: community organizing to encourage participation; oral history to record stories; documentary to create the soundtrack of interview excerpts; public sculpture; theater and civic event in the procession through the streets to the 10-by-26-foot Cocoon. Browne grew up in rural Pennsylvania, graduated from Hampshire College, and now lives in New York City.

Steelton Performance Installation – Event Date: In honor of Labor Day, Thursday, August 31, 2023, (rain date Friday, September 1, 2023). Find details about this event here.

Partners: United Steelworkers Local 1688, Borough of Steelton, and Susquehanna Art Museum.

Funders: Dauphin County Tourism Grant Award, Arts for All Partnership, a partnership between the Cultural Enrichment Fund and the Greater Harrisburg Community Foundation, a regional foundation of The Foundation for Enhancing Communities, Neil Barsky & Joan Davidson Foundation, Jeffrey Keenan and bykatebrowne.

Plan Your Visit

Exhibition Details

Date: February 10 – May 19, 2024​

Gallery: Lehr Gallery

Thank you to our Lehr Gallery Season Sponsor UPMC.



Third in the Burg

Friday, February 16, 2024
5:00 – 8:00 pm
Free Admission

Artist Talk: Kate Browne

Friday, March 8, 2024​
5:30 – 7:00 pm
Event details here


Third in the Burg

Friday, March 15, 2024​
5:00 – 8:00 pm
Free Admission

Third in the Burg

Friday, April 19, 2024
5:00 – 8:00 pm
Free Admission