tender funerals takes art to the heart of the Illawarra


Port Kembla-based Tender Funerals are inviting the Illawarra community to experience the transformative power of art and music – through an evening celebration of its artist in residence program, a series of talks, and an exhibition that follows.

Series of events
Across this series of events, community members can witness the talents and dedication of Tender Funerals’ REALM Artists in Residence Project, first-hand.  

“Our artists in residence enable creativity as the means to involve families in farewelling their people,” explains Tender Funerals’ director and general manager Jenny Briscoe-Hough.

“These events invite the community to experience such offerings up close, in a way that is more tangible.”  

 More on REALM
The REALM project, set up by a grant from Create NSW, comprises a number of artists in residence, including Jodi Phillis, Malika Reese, Michele Elliot who work with Tender families. There is a community choir who rehearse fortnightly under the guidance of dedicated local musicians Jodi Phillis and Malika Reese and a sewing circle facilitated by textile artist Michele Elliot.

REALM is designed to enable people to be personally involved in the bereavement of their loved person. Whether through music and song, textiles or installation, or to create a ceremony or an artwork, or design an intimate commemoration of their person.

This ethos mirrors the purpose that shapes Tender Funerals.  “We believe that people should have the right to say goodbye in their own way; taking as much time as they need,” explains Jenny.

Making art accessible
Despite this, art and music can remain daunting, says Michele. “It can be difficult for some people to initially contextualise how art or music could be incorporated into a funeral or other bereavement ritual,” she explains.  “We hope to bridge this gap in understanding through this series of upcoming events; so that people can experience this transformative power for themselves.”

Michele has also been working with families to create artworks and rituals. She will be exhibiting Tender Cloths, a collection of ephemeral textiles made with donated funeral flowers from some of Tender’s families. After the exhibition, remaining cloths will go to Tender to be used as part of their mortuary care. 

Michele explains the background to this project. “So many beautiful flowers were going to waste,” she says. “It made sense to ask our families if we could incorporate these flowers into keepsake textiles, to be cherished over the years ahead.”

The cloths are all made from muslin because “it is often used to make wraps for newborn babies, so I wanted to bring that same softness and care for someone at the end of their life,” says Michele.

The power of art and music
This series launched with Tender Funerals’ Community Choir performing a compilation of songs on the evening of Thursday June 20, which focused on love and remembrance. It included new songs written by Malika Reese. “We Will Always Remember came to me in a dream,” said Malika. “The lyrics and melody are simple and when all three parts combine, they have a beautiful resonance.”

“Through our artist and musician in residence program, Tender Funerals is offering a direct experience of the transformative power of art. People in our community have the opportunity to work alongside skilled artists and musicians to assist in farewelling people close to them. It is true collaboration of the minds.

“We are so pleased to celebrate this initiative, which sits at the heart of the community we deeply care for,” says Jenny.


 DATES: June 21 - July 7 

GALLERY HOURS: Wed-Fri 11-5; Sat-Sun 12-4pm

VENUE: Project Contemporary Artspace, 255 Keira Street, Wollongong.