Participate in This Year’s Day of the Dead Community Celebration

Day of the Dead altar box display from 2014 fiesta at Edgewood College.

Image: Day of the Dead altar box display from 2014 fiesta at Edgewood College.

Every October, the lobby in front of the Advising & Career Center at the School of Human Ecology ebbs and flows with stacks of simple wooden boxes. Sometimes more numerous, sometimes less, the boxes are available to all students and community members to take home and decorate in memory of a loved one who has died. They then bring back their finished “altar boxes” to be part of the School of Human Ecology’s Community Altar Project October 25–November 15. On November 1, the school will again host Day of the Dead celebration, open to all community members and featuring food, music, dancing, and stories.

“Making an altar for a loved one is really hard. But it is also a very powerful experience. And when displayed together, it creates a community of altars, each with their own memory and meaning,” says organizer and Jane Rafferty Thiele Professor in Human Ecology Carolyn Kallenborn. Her art and scholarship have found inspiration in the extensive exchange work she has engaged in in Oaxaca, Mexico.

“A friend of mine in Mexico said, ‘For some reason the All Powerful one allows our dead loved ones to come back for a day. So we thrown them a party.’ Day of the Dead in SoHE was inspired by the festival of remembering, honoring and celebrating.”

November 1, Fiesta schedule:

4:30 – 5:30pm Story sharing by altar makers

5:30 – 8:00pm
Ruth Davis Design Gallery and Lynn Mecklenburg Textile Gallery open
Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection special showing of textiles related to death

5:30 – 7:30pm:
– Cookie decorating and Skeleton coloring (Belén Chávez)
MetamorFaces Fantasy Makeup (Catrina Face Painting) (Nuria Moffat)
– Day of the Dead Print Sale (Fresh Hot Press)
– Tamales, and other snacks (Taqueria El Jalapeño)

6:00pm Stilt walkers (Wild Rumpus Circus/Mazo Movement Arts Center)

6:30pm Welcome Remarks

7:00 – 8:00pm Live music by Acoplados / Folk Afro Latin Music

7:40pm DanzTrad Aztec Dance

8:00[m Jalisco Dancers

PARKING: Always limited, so we encourage using transit. Several buses drop very near to our building! Otherwise, lots 26 and 34 are free after 4:30. More parking and bus information available at


  • Paul Newton says:

    The Facebook page for this event features four white people dressed in stereotypical costumes.

    Considering the recent national reputation that UW has garnered as a school for “whites only,” that posting is incredibly tone deaf at best.

    This harms UW’s reputation. Please do better.

    • Serena Larkin says:

      Dear Paul,

      Thank you for your message. We regret not providing more context for the image, which features a member of DanzTrad, a dance troupe with members from Mexico who travel annually to this event, and the local Forward! Marching Band, who were booked to play outside of the building last year. The DanzTrad and the marching band did not formally perform together, but the photo does confuse and misrepresent the two different groups. We’ll add information in the caption to clarify this.

      More importantly, we take seriously the recent events at UW–Madison highlighting the systemic racism present on this campus, and we are working internally as the School of Human Ecology (SoHE), as well as with partners across and beyond campus, to address it. This photograph, posted without context, failed to align with that effort, and we apologize for any harm it may have caused you or others in our community.

      That said, our Day of the Dead fiesta is a unique and rich cross-cultural event built on genuine relationships between faculty at SoHE and Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies (LACIS) and partners in Mexico. The universal experience of the death of a loved one, shared in community with others, is a powerful inspiration. We hope you will join us this Friday to see it for yourself and even contribute your own art, if you would like.

      Thank you for the invitation to always do better. We take that charge to heart.


      Linda Zwicker
      Senior Assistant Dean – Advancement and Communications
      School of Human Ecology|UW-Madison
      2144 Nancy Nicholas Hall | 1300 Linden Drive
      Madison, WI 53706 | 608.265.5136

  • laurie rossbach says:

    Dear Paul,
    If the photo of some of my band mates along with a dancer from Danz Trad is the one being referred to, I find the negative comment about it particularly hurtful due to the context of that particular year of 2018 when it would have been taken. Our band was deeply mourning at the time the very recent death of one of our founding members, who had passed just weeks earlier from a brain tumor. Every single member of our band played for him that night through tears. His widow was in attendance and an altar box was created in his memory. This event was and will continue to be deeply meaningful to the members of Forward marching band, and we have always considered it a great honor to be invited to be a part of it.

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