Dia del los Muertos to be celebrated at Tomé Art Gallery

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A group of local artists want to help folks celebrate family and friends who have passed on to the next life.

That is why Tomé Art Gallery is holding its sixth annual Dia de los Muertos exhibition and reception this Sunday, Oct. 27. The festivities will start with a meet-the-artists reception at 11 a.m., followed by several events, including a costume contest, free make-and-take projects that organizers hope will educate and entertain the young and old alike.

Barron Jones-News-Bulletin photo: Tomé Art Gallery artist Pati Woodard arranges handmade flowers in preparation of the gallery’s sixth annual Dia de los Muertos reception. The exhibition, designed to honor those who have passed away, opened Oct. 11 and runs until Nov. 3.

During the holiday, family and friends gather to remember those who have died. They build personal altars, decorated with pictures, sugar skulls, marigolds and other items to help the deceased navigate the afterlife.

One of the event’s organizers Pati Woodard said she didn’t know much about the holiday, commonly referred to as the Day of the Dead, until she moved to New Mexico several years ago. Originally from Michigan, Woodard said the celebration has introduced her to a new way of recognizing and honoring her departed loved ones.

“Poor Mom died, I sure miss her. And viola! You make a recipe, and then you say, ‘this is Mom’s favorite recipe’ and that is about how far it goes,” Woodard said.

Woodard first became familiar with the holiday by visiting art galleries throughout the years and has since adopted some of the holiday’s traditions. She said that she regularly erects an altar to honor her mother’s memory by using things closely associated with her mom’s life.

“I bring a measuring cup with her spoon in it and a thing of oatmeal,” she said. “Then I bring her hose nozzle because she was well known for hosing down her driveway in Quincy, Michigan. Oh yeah, Band Aids — she always had little round Band Aids.”

Tomé Gallery artist Jan Pacifico said her upbringing introduced her to the religious holidays — All Saints Day and All Souls Day — that coincide with the Day of the Dead celebration.

“I grew up in a traditional New York Catholic upbringing,” Pacifico said. “We didn’t celebrate the Day of the Dead. We celebrated the actual holy day that you had to go to church on, which was All Saints Day, Nov. 1.”

Although the holiday wasn’t celebrated in her household, Pacifico remembered while growing up her Italian ancestors practicing some of the same customs observed during the Day of the Dead celebration, such as leaving offerings for the deceased

“My grandmother and great aunt and all that would go to the cemetery and they would bring food and different things and leave them at the cemetery,” she said. “I love it. I love folk art and to see that kind of grassroots celebration of your ancestors, so visually expressed is so much fun to me.”

In addition to the 1:30 p.m. costume contest, there will be a free shrinky-dink jewelry class where participants draw on small, round plastic disks that are shrunk in a toaster oven and used as pendants or bracelets.

The Day of the Dead/Dia de los Muertos Show, which began several years ago with a handful of artists, has grown to include 20 area artists exhibiting art on a variety of media, such as silk, fiber, fused glass, pottery and jewelry.

The show is one of the gallery’s largest revenue-generating events. For more information, contact Pati Woodard at 610-9023, or the Tomé Art Gallery at 565-0556.