A sign that Grand Rapids is growing ever more diverse is the level of programming devoted to the cultures and nationalities that call this region their new home. This week I want to highlight three venues all doing a great job of promoting the international event Dia de los Muertos.
The downtown branch of the Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) began celebrating Dia de los Muertos
just five years ago with a small gathering of guests making altars, but their event quickly expanded in size, much like those beautifully rich orange marigold blooms that decorate many of the traditional 3-D works.
This year the GRPL has set aside two days just for school groups to visit and learn about the traditions of the holiday via a temporary exhibition that provides the history, tradition and symbolism of this day. This is a great way to explore the international history of Dia de los Muertos but also a chance for locals to participate in honoring the dead. On Family Day, November 1, people can engage in face painting, view the altars, and have a chance to hear local author and altar creator Roberta King read from her book He Plays a Harp
and discuss the altar she created honoring her son, the subject of her book.
"Dia de los Muertos not only explores the Mexican holiday of Day of the Dead and the traditions the holiday incorporates to remember those who have passes away, it also connects the holiday back to our community," says Kristen Krueger-Corrado GRPL's Marketing and Communications Manager, "The altars that Grand Rapids residents create, using the symbolic items (ofrenda) that commemorate the life of the deceased, become a celebration of that person's life and allow us to remember as a community all the unique and special people that make this a tremendous place to live."
Saturday night is the chance to see a cultural mash-up at Founders Brewing Company's Taproom stage
, where Cabildo, AB!, Sonorama, and Guapachosos will perform. And since no musical Dia de los Muertos celebration would be complete without an altar, Founders has tapped local Tanglefoot Building artist Carlos Aceves to build one this year at the tasting room.
On Sunday, those wanting to stay in a neighborhood and enjoy a very relaxed (but no less vibrant) Dia de los Muertos
celebration should make a point to stop by the Richard App Gallery, where, for the second year in a row, they will welcome the band El Hurakan from Guanajuato (by way of Chicago).
When gallery owner Richard App heard El Hurakan perform at the gallery's celebration last year, he knew he had to book them to return to Grand Rapids this year. Part of App's enthusiasm for the band is due to their unusual selection of instruments, created from organic sources like tree stumps, gourds, and even tree limbs.
"I've never seen or heard of anything like it," says App.
Another aspect of this popular gallery celebration event is the sculptural art of Carla and Ismael Sanchez, who will be displaying 14 Catrina dolls that commemorate the goddess known as the "Lady of the Dead."
These sculptures are so stunning in their presentation that I dare you not to get caught up in the buying frenzy that often lands these collectable works in area art collections. The sculptures must be seen to truly understand their power.
Speaking of powerful imagery, the gallery will once again present an original (and sizable) altar in this spacious East Hills Gallery.
GRPL and the Richard App Gallery events are free; admission to Founders Taproom concert is $5.