Día de los Muertos: Bringing the Community Alive

Dia de los Muertos
Madi Stuart

Madi Stuart ’13, MAT ’14 is a Spanish teacher at Manitou Middle School where she incorporated the life and artwork of local artist Charles Rockey to teach her students lessons on the cultural significance of Day of the Dead. Students visited Rockey’s studio and studied his art to create an afendra alter in his honor. The afendra will be set up at the Colorado Fine Arts Center along with alters created by other schools and invited artists.

By Emma Holinko-Brossman ’20

The Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College has created a unique interpretation of Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) through a celebratory exhibit Nov. 1-2. The museum’s permanent collection includes Southwestern art from artist Jerry Vigil and prints created by José Guadalupe Posada, both of which use themes from Día de los Muertos, a holiday celebrated in the U.S. and Mexico to honor deceased loved ones and keep their memory alive.

Polly Nordstrand, curator of Southwest art at the FAC, Kris Stanec, director of museum education, and countless others collaborated to create a community celebration, working with local schools and artists. Stanec sums up the experience saying, “It’s funny how these things spiral around each other, a generation of depth from all of the inter-connections.” She points out how the FAC has connected culture, community, and the CC alumni network in a creative display highlighting these beautiful relationships.

Madi Stuart ’13, MAT ’14, who majored in Spanish and also received her Master’s in Teaching, works at Manitou Springs Middle School. She and her students are creating an ofrenda that will celebrate the life and memory of Charles Rockey, an iconic local artist who passed away over the summer. Rockey captured impressionist depictions of the unique nature of Manitou Springs, nestled at the base of Pikes Peak. He spent 25 years teaching art at local schools and sharing his talent and joy with future generations of creative minds. Stuart’s students’ ofrenda, an offering or collection of objects, will be on display during the FAC’s Día de los Muertos celebration,

Students at Wilson Elementary School in Colorado Springs are also participating through its English language learning program. The school currently has 134 students enrolled in ELL, and many are still in the early stages of learning English. The FAC, through generous donations, has been able to provide transportation for all 134 students to come to the FAC on Friday, Nov. 1, to see their art come to life.

This holiday provides the catalyst for a connection between culture and perspective, exploring how to respect the traditions of Indigenous cultures over time. Maruca Salazar, a prominent artist located in Denver, will be creating a traditional Aztec altar for the FAC as part of this special exhibit, celebrating the power of tradition, community, and art.

The free community event Nov. 1-2, features a traditional Aztec altar by Salazar, ofrendas by area school groups, free art making activities, and more. Check out the altar building at the FAC Friday, Nov. 1, beginning at 11 a.m. Learn more about festivities and performances.

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