jessica charlesworth

The Beginner’s Guide to Dying – A MeMo Panel Discussion

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The Grand Army of the Republic Memorial Hall provided a magnificent atmosphere to the MeMo panel discussion

 A free event open to the public  on May 4th to coincide with The MeMo Organization Cabinet currently installed at the Chicago Cultural Center until July 8th. A lively MeMo panel discussion in the General Army of the Republic Hall on the 2nd floor of the Chicago Cultural Center entitled “The Beginners Guide To Dying” discusses issues relating to Death and the Contemporary. With extraordinary special guests including L.A. based alternative mortician and activist, Caitlin Doughty; music thanatologists Margaret Pasquesi and Tony Pederson, practitioners of a voice and harp based palliative care model: architect John Ronan, who explores the intersection of death and architecture; and myself the founder of The MeMo Organization. The panel was chaired by Michael Graham from Balloon Contemporary.

From left to right ; Michael Graham from Balloon Contemporary, mortician Caitlin Doherty, music thanatologists, Margaret Pasquesi and Tony Pederson, architect John Ronan and MeMo founder and designer Jessica Charlesworth

The music thanatologists' harps ready for their demo.

The awesome music thanatologists, Margaret Pasquesi and Tony Pederson, giving us a demo of their harp talents.

Tweets from the panel:
About the panel members
Caitlin Doughty
Caitlin Doughty is a professional mortician, psychopomp and writer based in Los Angeles. Born in O’ ahu, Hawai’i, she received her B.A. in Medieval History from the University of Chicago. Her graduating thesis, “In Our Image: The Suppression of Demonic Births In Late Medieval Witchcraft Theory,” is considered a cult classic amongst aficionados of demon sex and the medieval church. She moved to California where she worked as funeral arranger, a crematory operator, and a body van transport driver before returning to school for her degree in Mortuary Science. She is currently a licensed funeral director. In 2011, she founded The Order of the Good Death, an organization of filmmakers, poets, musicians, artists and writers exploring ways to prepare a death phobic culture for their inevitable mortality. The Order is inspired by several historical groups including the 19th century Brazilian sisterhood of African slaves, Irmandade da Nossa Senhora da Boa Morte, or, Sisterhood of Our Lady of the Good Death, as well as traditions which span the medieval Ars Moriendi (Art of Dying) and the Tibetan Bardo Thodol. Her activities have been covered widely by the media, including NPR, The Huffington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Bust Magazine, and Jezebel. She was recently identified as one of a handful of Millennials transforming their profession by the online journal, Fortnight, where she continues to publish essays, videos, and photo journals about death, dying, and the funeral industry.Tony Pederson, CM-Th
A certified music-thanatologist with fourteen years of experience in the field, Tony Pederson, is a 1996 graduate of the Chalice of Repose Project’s School of Music-Thanatology. He studied psychology, philosophy and religion, and received a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern Illinois University. Starting in 1993, Tony worked for six years in an Alzheimer’s unit in Missoula, Montana, where he saw firsthand the benefits of using music prescriptively for individuals with a terminal illness. He has worked for Midwest Palliative & Hospice Care Center since 2003 where he provides direct patient care in homes, hospitals, long-term care facilities and Hospice Inpatient Unit using music prescriptively via the harp and voice to attend to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the dying patient and their families. Tony currently serves as the website coordinator for the Music-Thanatology Association International and often presents on music-thanatology to professionals and community audiences.

Margaret Pasquesi, MA, CM-Th
Margaret Pasquesi is a certified music-thanatologist who has worked for Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter since 2003. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in music and a master’s in interdisciplinary arts and is active as a writer and performer in the Chicago theater community. She completed the two-year, intensive formation process at the Chalice of Repose Project School of Music-Thanatology in 2002. In addition to her work as a music-thanatologist, Margaret performs a wide range of musical styles, from alternative rock to serving as a cantor in a wide variety of spiritual settings. She is especially interested in assisting families from various religious and spiritual backgrounds in the creation of meaningful rituals around oft-neglected rites of passage. Her work as a music thanatologist has been covered widely in the media, including Crain’s Chicago Business, the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Public Radio, NBC, and WGN. She regularly presents on music-thanatology to a wide range of medical, spiritual, and cultural organizations.

John Ronan
John Ronan is founding principal of John Ronan Architects in Chicago, founded in 1997. He holds a Master of Architecture degree with distinction from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design and a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Michigan. In 1999, he was a winner in the Townhouse Revisited Competition staged by the Graham Foundation and his firm was the winner of the prestigious Perth Amboy High School Design Competition in 2004, a two-stage international design competition to design a 472,000 square foot high school in New Jersey. In December 2000, he was named as a member of the Design Vanguard by Architectural Record magazine, and in January 2005 he was selected to The Architectural League of New York’s Emerging Voices program. In 2006 he was featured in the Young Chicago exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. His work has been exhibited in galleries throughout the U.S., including the Graham Foundation, the Art Institute of Chicago and The Architectural League of New York’s Urban Center, and his work has been featured in numerous international publications. His firm has been the recipient of two AIA Institute National Honor Awards (for the Poetry Foundation and The Gary Comer Youth Center, both in Chicago). A monograph on his work, entitled Explorations, published by Princeton Architectural Press was released in 2010. John is currently Professor of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology College of Architecture, where he has taught since 1992.

Balloon Contemporary
Balloon, founded by Michael Graham in 2009, is conceived as a flexible platform where multiple activities take place, with an expanded focus on work that crosses traditional boundaries and advances cultural dialogue. Recent projects include the first public staging, in partnership with Philadelphia’s Slought Foundation, of a major private collection focusing on representations of death and finality; an exhibition of the video work of Brooklyn based Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation juxtaposed with the avant-garde design of Martino Gamper, with support from the Aperture Foundation; the production of two furniture collections by the British designer, Karen Ryan, that question the boundaries of design and narrative; an upcoming architectural intervention in partnership with the National Historic Trust for Preservation, with support from the Graham Foundation, by the Argentine artist, Osvaldo Romberg, that will symbolically connect the Melnikov House in Moscow to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois; A collaboration between the Scottish painter, Fraser Taylor, and former Merce Cunningham dancer, Rashaun Mitchell produced by the Baryshnikov Foundation which will preview in Chicago in July, 2012 as part of the British Consular Residence’s UK/Chicago program; The Collectors’ Exchange, in conjunction with SAIC, a radically open platform for conversations about contemporary art and design, which will debut as part of the opening edition of EXPO Chicago Art Fair 2012.


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