Image: Day of the Dead altar box display from 2014 fiesta at Edgewood College.
Every October, the lobby in front of the Student Academic Affairs office 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.”
Learn more, including the schedule of events for November 1, at lavidaylosmuertos.com, and find a printable flyer about the project here. Professor Kallenborn has also produced a short film about Day of the Dead in Oaxaca, available to stream on Vimeo. All proceeds from rental fees support the communities depicted in the film as well as cross-cultural education development.
Want to participate?
- Pick up a box in the front central lobby of the School of Human Ecology.
- Decorate your box! Get creative, using mementos, images, poems, or whatever materials feel meaningful to you in remembering your loved one.
- Drop off your box to the Design Gallery by Friday, October 25.
- Join the Day of the Dead Fiesta on Friday, November 1, from 4:30–8:30 p.m.