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Fine Arts Center partners with artists, local schools for 2019 Día de los Muertos celebration


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Oct. 16, 2019) — The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College is excited to announce their upcoming Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, Oct. 30 and Nov. 1-2, 2019. Día de los Muertos is a celebration of life and death that demonstrates love and respect for deceased family members. The tradition originated in Mexico but is celebrated throughout Latin America and parts of the United States. In the 1970s, California artists involved in the Chicano Movement took up the traditions of Día de los Muertos to celebrate cultural pride and express ideas of social justice. In 2008, it was added to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

The community is invited to watch the altar construction process throughout the day (the completed altar will be on view through Nov. 10). At 4:30 pm, there will be an altar opening and Aztec danza, a dancing in prayer, by Grupo Folklórico Sabor Latino of Denver.The Fine Arts Center celebration begins Oct. 30 with the installation of a traditional Aztec altar by Denver-based artist and curator Maruca Salazar. Salazar was director of Museo de las Americas and worked for many years with Denver Public Schools, successfully administering a multi-million dollar arts program. She grew up in the Mexican state of Veracruz, where she learned Totonac traditions from her grandmother. “In our home, my grandmother made sure that elements of our indigenous past were present as well as the influence of the Catholic church during the installation of the family altar,” says Salazar.

Ofrendas created by students from four local schools will also be displayed at the museum. Ofrendas are altars created to honor a deceased person and are traditionally loaded with food, flowers and candles. Over the past month, students spent time learning about the tradition and creating their own ofrendas. Madi Stuart, a teacher at Manitou middle school, worked with her students to create an ofrenda that celebrates beloved Manitou artist and poet Charles Rockey, who passed away earlier this year. Stuart worked with Rockey’s family to learn more about him and arranged a class visit to his studio.

In addition to the altars created by Salazar and community schools, the exhibition “Visibility and Belonging: Chicanx Art in Context” will be on view. Nancy Ríos, Visiting Assistant Professor in Southwest Studies at Colorado College, worked with CC students to curate the exhibition, which explores Chicanx culture and its influences.

On Nov. 1, First Friday festivities include free museum admission and another opportunity to view Salazar’s Aztec altar and local school’s ofrendas.

The celebration continues Saturday, Nov. 2, with free museum admission, artist demonstrations, performances, food, and more. Colorado College’s Mariachi Tigre ensemble will perform Mexican popular and folk music. Local Mexican folk dance group Ballet Folklórico de la Raza will also perform. Bemis School of Art instructors will guide visitors in a hands-on activity creating tissue paper marigolds, traditionally used to decorate ofrendas.

“We are excited to be celebrating Día de los Muertos this year as a way to understand how deeply the art traditions influence our lives, and we hope that this will be a community-building experience for everyone,” said Curator of Southwest Art Polly Nordstrand.