Date of Award

Summer 8-18-2023

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)




Susan Smith

Second Committee Member

Sheridan Kelley Adams

Third Committee Member

Kirsten Jacobson

Additional Committee Members

Pauleena MacDougall


Death is a fact of life, yet researchers such as Caitlin Doughty, Todd Harra, Ernest Becker, and others, have found that people deem death a taboo topic of conversation. Doughty herself started a social movement, death positivity, to encourage this taboo to be broken, and to normalize talking about death. However these researchers published their findings in the early to mid 2010’s, before a major pandemic made death a more common occurrence for people. Inspired by previous researchers' experiences, this project asks the question: How do people feel about death now, and can socially engaged art create a space where people feel comfortable sharing these feelings?

My research and participatory art projects aim to allow a space where conversations can happen by foregrounding the project in artmaking as a vehicle for sharing thoughts and fears. Through the creation of art participants will have the chance to create something that represents their feelings on death and give them a chance to process those feelings while they create. This will serve as a pathway for them to visualize their feelings as well as offering an outlet that may not be available elsewhere. I also created an opportunity for them to have conversations with the people around them about their feelings. Socially engaged art relies on audience members participating and sharing their thoughts to create a conversation that can lead to social change. By creating an environment where people will be comfortable with having conversations with others and exchanging ideas, people can walk away with new perspectives on issues they may not have considered before. This project created that space for people to come together and form a community where people can create art together about death while also feeling comfortable talking with the people around them.

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