We’re a long way north of Mexico, but plenty of people in Tacoma celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the annual Day of the Dead festival involving art, flowers, papier-maché skeletons and honoring lost loved ones. This year sees two free artistic ways to do it: the 9th annual celebration at Tacoma Art Museum on Sunday, and the resurrection of the 6th Avenue procession on Friday, the actual day of the traditional festival.
“The business district like the feeling of bringing prople together to do something fun and cultural,” says Angela Jossy, who’s organizing the 6th Avenue procession. “And it’s artistic – that’s what 6th Avenue is known for.”
The artistry comes from the dozens of papier-maché skulls and skeletons, traditionally made to honor the dead and held aloft in Dia de los Muertos processions, which participants have been making over the last month in a series of pay-what-you-can workshops. Led by artist Annika Nelson, the workshops at Epworth LeSourd Methodist Church just off 6th Avenue have been attracting up to 25 people each Tuesday and Thursday night to work on the sculptures. It’s an idea that also happened for the previous incarnation of the procession, resulting in life-size decorated skeletons of fishermen, mermaids, devils, even Elvis Presley.
The current board of the district has been taking tips from the previous organizers, says Jossy, and intends the event to be a regular annual one again. After the procession, the Rev. Frances Lorenz will lead a ceremony honoring the dead, where participants can write the names of passed loved ones to set on an altar. Then 6th Avenue Photography will host a party with live music by Mariachi Fiesta Mexicana and a buffet dinner catered by El Guadalajara restaurant. Apart from the dinner, the event is free.
Everything’s free on Sunday as well, when Tacoma Art Museum hosts its most popular community festival of the year to honor Dia de los Muertos. Now nine years old, the event attracts around 3,000 people, and is a partnership between the museum and local non-profits Centro Latino and Proyecto Molé. For the last two weeks the museum’s traditional tapete (sand painting) on the lobby floor and community ofrendas (altars) upstairs in the mezzanine have been on display; Sunday adds in live music by Mariachi Ayutla, dance from Danza Quetzalcoatl of Olympia, food such as pan muerte, art activities like making skeleton charms and decorating sugar skulls, face painting and more. Gallery entrance is also free for the whole day.
“This is a favorite annual event for all of Tacoma that connects us across cultures,” says TAM director Stephanie Stebich.
6th Avenue Procession: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at 6th Avenue Photography (2502 6th Ave., Tacoma) goes along 6th Avenue to Cedar Street and back; 6:30 p.m. Ceremony then party at 6th Avenue Photography. Free (buffet Mexican dinner $8). on6thave.com
TAM Community Festival: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 3 (altars and tapete on view daily until Sunday). Free. Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-4258, tacomaartmuseum.org
Rosemary Ponnekanti: 253-597-8568 firstname.lastname@example.org