Day of the Dead festival brings Hispanic tradition to Living Arts
BY NOUR HABIB World Scene Writer
Sunday, October 28, 2012
10/28/12 at 5:19 AM
Related story: Traditional food reflects tastes of the deceased.
The annual Día de los Muertos - or Day of the Dead - arts festival at Living Arts of Tulsa is about changing the way people view death, said artistic director Steve Liggett.
"What we're doing is actually giving people a chance to engage with the notion that death is not necessarily a scary thing; that it is a sweet thing and if we embrace it, we will not be so fearful when it gets here," Liggett said.
The 18th annual festival will be at Living Arts of Tulsa, 307 E. Brady St., 5-10:30 p.m. Thursday. Hispanic food, dancing, music and artwork are all part of the festival.
Visitors can also view altars honoring the deceased, decorate traditional sugar skulls and incinerate letters written to loved ones who have died. Musicians and dancers will perform outdoors, and life-size, papier-mÃ¢ché skeletons will be paraded into the festival. Admission is $5 per person, and children 12 and younger are free.
Liggett was inspired to begin the festival at Living Arts after seeing the celebration of the holiday while on a trip to Mexico in 1992.
He said one of the main goals of the festival is to promote better understanding of the Hispanic culture and allow Tulsa Hispanics to reconnect with their heritage.
About 3,000 people attend the festival each year. This year, more than 50 altars will be on display in the building.
"What I'm hoping is, over the course of time, when people lose someone, they'll build an altar at the Day of the Dead," Liggett said.
Lisa Regan, owner of metal sculpture company Garden Deva, has made altars for the festival in previous years.
This year, she is making two altars, which she will put outside her business as part of the festival's new Community Altars Mapping Project, which invites individuals to make altars and display them outside their own residences, businesses, churches or other organizations. A map of the altar locations will be available at tulsaworld.com/livingarts for those who want to drive around town to view them.
Regan, who said the Day of the Dead Arts Festival is one of her favorite festivals in town, loves the multicultural aspect of the event.
The food, performances and activities are always popular with the crowds, she said. The altars especially draw her in.
Regan said she views the altars more as memorials.
"It's not so much spiritual as it is humanitarian," she said.
This year, her altars are for two Tulsa clients who meant a lot to her - poet Ann Zoller and doctor Simon Levit. Both died this year.
"I was really sad when they died," she said. "It wasn't even an option not to make (the altars)."
Zoller's altar takes the form of an angel because Regan said she swooped in like an angel to help Regan in her personal life. And Levit's altar takes the form of a tree, reminiscent of some of the early work he commissioned from her that pushed her business into something much bigger than she had ever imagined.
Rolf Olsen, who has been a member of the festival's organizing committee for several years, said the festival is a celebration of life.
Even though the altars are honoring people who died, the individual additions of things that represent those people bring their human qualities to life, Olsen said.
He said the festival manages to stay true to the original traditions of the Mexican holiday while also adapting to fit the contemporary artistic vision of Living Arts.
Other aspects of this year's festival include the Altar to the Fallen Soldier and an Open Altar, where anyone can add an offering to a loved one. There will also be face-painting, bingo-like games of "lotería" and readings of "calavera"-style poems. Day of the Dead murals can be viewed on the north side of the building, and more than 30 artists will display and sell their work in the gallery in the west end.
The Rev. David Medina from St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church will bless the altars at 7 p.m.
5 p.m.: Mariachi Tulsa
5:45 p.m.: Brujo Roots
6:30 p.m. Sol Azteca
7:15 p.m.: Grupo Acorralado
8:30 p.m. Salsabor
9:30 p.m. Matachines
9:55 p.m. Portico Dance Theatre and skeleton parade
10 p.m.: Fire dancers
5 p.m.: Tulsa Youth Orchestra
6 p.m.: Los Misioneros del Sabor
7 p.m.: Eleganza Musical
8 p.m.: Tierra Mestiza
8:30 p.m.: El Mariachi Nuevo Mexicanisimo
Original Print Headline: Day of the dead
Nour Habib 918-581-8369
A Day of the Dead mural near 307 E. Brady St. Day of the Dead is celebrated Nov. 1. TOM GILBERT/Tulsa World
Lisa Regan shows one of her Day of the Dead altars at Garden Deva in Tulsa on
Wednesday. The pieces will be on display during the Day of the Dead Festival.
JAMES GIBBARD/Tulsa World