Katrina Brees (New Orleans) practices in the field known as the death arts. Departing from her longtime work as a Mardi Gras parade producer, she has dedicated her residency at North Mountain to develop prototypes for a new model of burial. Part of the green burial movement, Katrina’s designs function on multiple levels. Her caskets are at once functional objects, custom art pieces, and therapy rituals that work to restore people’s relationship to death and dying.
Katrina’s residency is part of a special collaboration with Shepherd University, the liberal arts college in Shepherdstown, WV. In this collaboration, North Mountain worked with Shepherd to produce a gallery exhibition of Katrina’s caskets and business plan. The show opened at Phaze II Gallery located in Shepherds’ art school and exhibited Katrina’s caskets, gurneys, and photography.
Parallel to constructing the caskets and installing the show, Katrina developed a curriculum to teach “pro-choice” funeral planning. The workshop series includes illuminating the funeral industry’s corporate hold on burial practices, designing one’s own funeral, surveying death arts from around the world, and most importantly, emphasizing how to put the FUN in FUNeral. Through these lively workshops, participants reimagined their legacies and grew to new understandings of their own life’s purpose. She taught this workshop to communities at Shepherd University and at Berkeley Art Works in Martinsburg, WV.
Helping to make the paradigm shift to a death positive attitude is one of Katrina’s primary goals. She aims to continue producing her “ego-friendly, biodegradable caskets and empower mortals to align themselves with death rituals that effectively function within their values and finances.”