Day of the Dead, or Dia de los Muertos, is an annual celebration in Mexico that honors ancestors and loved ones who have died.
Celebrations usually begin on Halloween and continue until Nov. 2, but this month the Creston: Arts Gallery will be celebrating throughout November with the Dia de los Muertos exhibit by Creston Community High School. The November show will feature works from both art and culinary students from the high school and is designed to honor the loved ones of those students.
Culinary students will be creating treats for the reception, which will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at the gallery, as well as sugar skull cookies for display and Pan de los Muertos, or bread of the dead, a type of sweet bread served during Dia de los Muertos celebrations.
The breads are typically set on an altar families set up during Dia de los Muertos and symbolizes an offering to the souls of ancestral family members. Each student will create individual Pan de los Muertos and include a little bit about the loved one they chose to honor.
“Bailey (Fry-Schnormeier) asked me to, maybe, have cookies or bread that everybody could eat, and I was like, ‘Well, I can just turn this into one of their projects and we can actually celebrate their loved ones,’ and now it’s turned into their own exhibit as well as making food for the event,” said Martha Ray, family consumer science teacher at CCHS.
The gallery has done Dia de los Muertos exhibits in the past, but the art is always different because students choose personal projects to create in honor of a deceased family member.
“We have had running shoes painted and bedazzled to a snare drum decorated with photos and items that represented the student’s friend that had passed on,” said CCHS art instructor Bailey Fry-Schnormeier.
The gallery show was inspired by Fry-Schnormeier’s multi-cultural class which chose to focus its studies throughout the semester on Mexican culture, specifically Day of the Dead. The show will also feature 75 of the 2-dimensional art students as well as students from the drawing and print making classes at CCHS.
One of the personal projects visitors to the gallery will be able to see is an altered Dr. Seuss book created by Jae Fehrle about her aunt. The book is filled with photos and symbols depicting the life of her aunt, whom Fehrle described as “an amazing and wonderful person” who loved Dr. Seuss.
Piper Lumbard painted a Styrofoam skull in honor of her great grandfather, who was an avid fisherman.
“He owned a store in Sharpsburg, and he would leave the keys for people he knew,” said Lumbard. “It’s a really small town, so he knew everyone. He’d leave the keys so they could go in and buy something and leave their change on the counter (while he wasn’t there) so he could go fishing.”
Some of the displays are styled to look like altars with the students’ personal projects, photos and other art pieces gathered together. Others will be hanging on the wall along with papel picado, “pecked paper” or “perforated paper,” banners with symbols representing the students’ loved ones.
“I have witnessed the profound impact the Day of the Dead art show has on families,” said Fry-Schnormeier. “It is always exciting to see your own work outside of the studio and in a beautiful gallery space. There is an added level of emotion with the Day of the Dead shows. The families sometimes have tears brought to their eyes as they look at the works of art created by their students in memory of loved ones. This show opens the door for communication between students and their families about their loved ones that have passed on. Sometimes students are hesitant to ask about relatives, afraid that they will bring up painful memories, but in fact it allows families to share joyous memories and celebrate the life of those they have lost.”