FUNERIA’s Ashes to Art® exhibitions have been redefining the character, aesthetics and materials used in creating cremation urns, funerary vessels, reliquaries and personal memorial objects to suit 21st century tastes and needs since 2001.

The following images of award-winning artworks from our past 4 biennial events speak to the quality and originality of artists from throughout North America and more than 30 other countries. We have been enormously proud to present, promote and offer them all to the individuals and families who are seeking exactly this to honor a life they’ve loved… including their own.

Ashes to Art® | Special Edition, January to February 2002, enjoyed another packed opening reception in its extended run. We sold more pieces to both new and returning visitors who had seen and heard terrific reports from local media, including SF Weekly, Press Democrat, North Bay Bohemian, and in our first national print media exposure—a huge feature story in The Boston Globe.

FUNERIA’s 2nd international Ashes to Art® exhibition was another beautiful event, covered by the local NBC TV affiliate, and featured extensively in the funeral trade press as “offering the best in contemporary funerary art” under the headline “The Emerging Funerary Art Movement”. Ahhh, yes. Mortuary Management and Art in America share shelf space in our office, along with a range of other fascinating international specialized art, media, design, architecture and funeral industry publications.Even before our 2nd biennial, some encouraging signs were emanating from European quarters. A slick Dutch funeral trade magazine requested hi res images and featured Chris Rizzo’s fabulous Untitled #4 (Rocketship) on its front cover. Award winning work was inside. News of FUNERIA’s efforts to promote a contemporary funerary art genre was spreading not only in international art communities, but in business and trade realms too.

After attending our first funeral industry trade show in Chicago 2003, at which we featured 12 original artworks on one 6 ft. tabletop, between Batesville Casket Company and another vendor offering Thomas Kincaid licensed mementos, we were invited by our new Dutch friends to show three pieces that would be placed in custom vitrines at Salon Funeraire, in Le Bourget, outside of Paris. It was breezy and sunny and gorgeous in Paris that November.

For our 3rd biennial, we stretched our wings all the way to America’s cradle of liberty: Philadelphia PA. Our reception was warm and our stay memorable. Our welcome was thanks to the lead juror for our 2003 Ashes to Art® competition, Nick Kripal. Nick is not only Professor of Art and Chair of Crafts at Tyler School of Art at Temple University who is creating particularly exquisite and contemplative ceramic works, but he is also a partner in one of the most exciting art venues and communities on the east coast: Crane Arts in the vibrant Kensington neighborhood just north of Girard Ave. We will always be indebted to Nick, Richard Hricko, David Gleeson, to Theresa Kitch and so many more wonderful people we met during our month-long sojourn in that great city.

The Philadelphia exhibition precipitated an interview and plenty of photos in an exciting, newsy trendspotting online magazine in Japan, called Ping, which then caught the attention of a Japanese group and an invitation to bring a large selection to Chelsea in New York and Onishi Gallery that June, 2007.

Perhaps most thrilling of all, however, was when FUNERIA opened Art Honors Life®, “the nation’s first art gallery dedicated to cremation urns and other personal memorial artwork,” according to The New York Times in a story that the Times’ Patricia Leigh Brown had been eager to write for nearly two years, waiting only for the right time and opportunity. Many emails were exchanged that included names and contact information for artists FUNERIA represented who were creating interesting work, including hand carved ceramic prayer wheels or standing steel figures with kinetic/movable arms, clients we’d served who were gracious in extending permission to be interviewed and photographed, books and industry pundits we knew as fact-filled resources.

“In Death as in Life, a Personalized Space” published on January 18, 2007. It filled half of the front page of the Home & Design section, and all of page 3. It arrived in just enough time to whip the gallery into shape, with some divine intercession in the form of helpers right when they were needed most.

Without much advance publicity for a “soft” opening, visitors arrived at the reception in droves. It was an inquisitive, engaging and literate crowd, and it has remained so.  They all seemed to have read The New York Times…. some holding the printed story after traveling cross country to visit. Many returned when we opened our first full scale and 4th biennial international Ashes to Art® exhibition in our very own space in 2008, presented by FUNERIA with the generous support of Hillside Memorial Park in Los Angeles. Hillside is the preeminent Jewish cemetery in Southern California that champions the arts while serving entertainment royalty. They have acquired a wonderful selection of FUNERIA’s pieces for their own display and clients.

This year, 2010, began on a wonderful note too. More than a note, really, it was a full feature story that filled a front page and the center spread, lavishly illustrated with FUNERIA artwork on January 23, 2010 in the Los Angeles Times’ Home & Design section. It was an exceptionally well-researched story about the current state of the still-emerging funerary art genre and marketplace, titled “Funerary Urns as Modern Art” by Jeff Spurrier.

The story served as yet another fine example of how the mainstream press is bringing an important yet difficult subject to the dinner table. We can all be grateful for that, particularly visitors to our gallery. More often than not, they have been discouraged in the quest for something beautiful and meaningful for their purposes. Their relief and pleasure in finding what they need and want here is an experience we are delighted to share with them, and we’re thrilled when we can tell an artist that their work has been chosen, and that it matters more than they know.

It has been luxurious to hold opening and closing receptions and to serve wine or tea (or hot chai and ice cream floats!) to visitors when we know to expect them. Art Honors Life® | The Gallery at FUNERIA, features more than 100 original artist-made urns, smaller keepsakes and memorial objects at any given time. We encourage visitors to call or email in advance so that we don’t miss them, and invite interested groups for private tours and receptions.

Please visit! If you are an artist, we hope you will consider entering your most thoughtfully conceived and best work in our 5th biennial that opens October 23. The deadline is August 9… right around the corner.

Here’s to your beautiful life!

3 Responses to History

  1. Are you still conducting competitions? I only saw an archive up to 2011. I found this site from an ad in CM.

    • Thanks for asking and sorry for the delayed reply! Our Ashes to Art® competitions are on hiatus. Our upgraded website, however, which is waiting in the wings for final updates, will include info for artists who would like their work considered by FUNERIA’s arts advisory group for invitational exhibitions and/or inclusion in FUNERIA’s Portfolio. New work considered would be expected to meet the same criteria for originality and superb craft as our international competitions and selections will be made by our arts advisors that include jurors from previous Ashes to Art® events.

  2. Theresa Kitch says:

    Hi Maureen, Just read your newsletter and wanted to send my regards. It was my pleasure to be part of the support staff at Crane Arts when you were there. Glad things are going well for Funeria. Hope to meet up with you again sometime in the near future.

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