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Death and The Arts

Bringing artists and other people together from all over the world to explore the topics of death, life and the arts.

Photo of Betsy Trapasso, MSW
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Death and The Arts brings artists and other people together from all over the world to explore the topics of death, life and the arts. It is a safe space for interviews and conversations and to learn how people from different cultures view and do death.


About Death and The Arts

When I began working as a hospice social worker in Los Angeles in 1994, I became fascinated with how different cultures view and do death. It is difficult for many people to talk about death but what I discovered was that people could talk about death more easily if it was related to art. It could be a song, a book, a photo, a film, a poem, a painting or a play about death that moved them to talk. My dream of exploring different cultures' views of death through art has been over twenty years in the making. 

I am interviewing artists and other people to see how the arts influence their views and thoughts about death. They will also share about the art they create.

My first published interview is with Greg Nobile, a Tony and Olivier award winning Broadway theater producer. You can read it on the website.

I want people from different cultures to learn from each other and to share their experiences. I am hoping that it will spark online and real world end-of-life conversations. I also plan to create shows around the world to showcase some of the art and artists.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

I would love for you to think about the arts that influenced your views and thoughts about death. It can be a book, a painting, a song, a photo, a film, a play, food, fashion, a poem, etc..
What does that work of art mean to you? How did it help you think about death? Are there works of art from different cultures that influence your thoughts about death?


Betsy Trapasso


Join the conversation:

Photo of Peggy Hartzell

Betsy, Thanks for  bringing up the important role of the arts dying.  I did my thesis  for my Masters in Art Education at University of the Art on The Role of  Creativity in Aging and Dying.  I was also teaching Art/Photography in High School and taking care of my 90 year old mother at the same time. I feel that the arts are an important part of the dying process for both  the caregivers and the person moving on.

Photo of Betsy Trapasso, MSW

Hi Peggy,
Thanks for sharing about your Masters thesis. It sounds very interesting. Like you point out, I have also found the arts and creativity to be important to many of the people I have worked with. It will be interesting to see how the arts play a part in this end of life challenge.
Take care,

Photo of Morgan Meinel

Betsy, thanks so much for this post, the work that you do, and for illuminating how art can serve as an avenue in which we can explore death and dying. I recently attended a Hospice and Palliative Care Conference where Candy Chang, an artist with a background in urban planning, was one of the keynote speakers. You may have heard of one of her projects: "Before I die..." Before I Die is a global public art project that invites people to reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in public space. After the loss of a dear friend, Candy Chang created this interactive wall on an abandoned house in her neighborhood to create an anonymous place to help share vulnerabilities, anxieties, goals to achieve before ones death, etc. intimately with neighbors. I think this such a great idea - it allows people to remain anonymous if they wish, but also gives them the opportunity to connect with their community and express their emotion in a safe way. 

Here's the link to her project:

Photo of Betsy Trapasso, MSW

Thank you for your kind words Morgan. I love Candy Chang and her "Before I Die" project. It is wonderful that you were able to see her in person. She is such an inspiration.  
I am so excited to be part of this IDEO challenge and to see what everyone contributes. It is such an amazing community.

Photo of Morgan Meinel

I am so glad you are a part of the IDEO challenge, Betsy! Thank you for your thought provoking and inspiring contributions to it! :) 

Photo of Shane Zhao

Thanks for the post Betsy! It's very inspiring to hear about the work you're doing with Death and The Arts. There're a couple other contributors in this challenge who have also shared their creative endeavors/ movements around the end-of-life. You'll be curious to check them out: You're Going to Die  and Death Over Dinner 

Photo of Betsy Trapasso, MSW

Hi Shane,
It is so lovely to be part of this IDEO challenge. I love what Ned, Michael and Angel are doing with their projects. I have known about them for a long time.  I hosted a Death Over Dinner and it was amazing. I have been the hostess of Death Cafe Los Angeles for three years, which is just a bit different. The end-of-life community is very supportive of each other and we tend to know about each other's work.
I am excited to see how this progresses.