The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate of Detroit, will display 16 ofrenda altars, or offerings, created by local artists in Ofrendas: Celebrating el Día de Muertos, on display from Saturday, Sept. 28, to Sunday, Nov. 10. The exhibition is free with museum admission, which is always free for residents of Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties. Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), a tradition in Mexican and Mexican American communities, honors the life and memory of lost loved ones.
Four of this year’s 16 altars include tributes to refugees held at the border. Others honor southeast Detroit’s Delray neighborhood, family members, friends, artists, musicians and more. The altars range from 4 to 8 feet tall and are created from a variety of materials, including papier mâché, papel picado (paper cutouts), artificial flowers, LED candles, sugar skulls, photos, clay, wood and more.
“There are so many talented artists among the Detroit area’s vibrant Mexican American community,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA director. “We’re happy to showcase one of their most important cultural traditions and hope visitors from all backgrounds will make connections with their own traditions of honoring those who have passed on.”
The DIA put out a call to artists for proposals, and submissions were judged by a selection committee of DIA staff and local community members of Mexican heritage. The artists chosen for the exhibition have wide-ranging experiences and occupations—from seasoned artists and teachers to art enthusiasts, entrepreneurs and community group members. Many have designed ofrendas for other museums, galleries and community centers.
Other Día de Muertos themed programs at the DIA include a puppet performance, Skeletons in the Closet at 2 p.m. on Sept. 28; sugar skull drop-in art-making workshop Friday, Oct. 25 from 6 to 9 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26 and 27 from noon–4 p.m.; dance performances by Ballet Folklórico de Detroit on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26 and 27 at 2 p.m.; and a talk by the ofrenda artists on Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. All programs are free with museum admission.