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Main Street Gallery features El Dia de los Muertos

Daily News Staff Writer

Even though it’s a holiday that honors the dead, El Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as the Day of the Dead, exhibit at the Main Street Gallery is quite a lively scene.

El Dia de los Muertos is a holiday that originated in Mexico and is celebrated throughout Latin America every year on Nov. 1 with festivals, food, drinks and offerings at altars — and sometimes, those offerings may be in the form of a drink.

“Traditionally, it used to be things like a shot of tequila or a cigar,” Cameo McRoberts, the program director at the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council, said. “A little bit of that is this idea that the Day of the Dead is not a mournful celebration but a celebration of that person’s life. Often times, some of the things that the offerings were, were their little treats — candies, alcohol — kind of like sinful little treats.”

The community is invited to enjoy the gallery exhibit that features about 25 artists and 30 pieces of work, ranging from mixed-media artwork to photography, paintings, sculptures and others.

McRoberts said the exhibit is a mix between new and experienced artists, and it’s some of the artists’ first time submitting their work to the Main Street Gallery.

”We’ve got a pretty broad array (of artists); our youngest person was 14,” she said. “We’ve got a little bit of youth stuff in there.”

Much of the artwork contains calacas and calaveras — or skulls and skeletons — which is the most familiar representation of the Day of the Dead. The calacas can be seen during the festival in several mediums: made of candy, as dolls and masks.

The gallery featured an exhibit for El Dia de los Muertos two years ago, and McRoberts said the hope is to do it every couple of years. She said it’s an interesting call for artists, and it brings a cultural awareness of the Latin American celebration to Ketchikan while presenting a different way of talking about death and passing.

McRoberts added the exhibit at the Main Street Gallery will feature a community altar, also known as an ofrenda — meaning offering in Spanish. The public is invited to bring a photo or memento in remembrance of their loved ones to place on the community ofrenda, which will be an ongoing area at the exhibit.

She explained an ofrenda is normally a treat that their loved one enjoyed, and the Day of the Dead celebration is a time where that loved one is invited to come back and enjoy that treat, while their family celebrates their life.

“For me, I think it’s really important to provide some of the really traditional aspects of it, because a lot of it is sort of contemporary ideas,” McRoberts said.

The altar currently has several items that McRoberts has collected over the years from Mexico, and she invites anyone to bring items for the altar. She said to make sure they’re labeled so they can be returned to their owners.

The arts council will also feature an exhibit workshop from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Oct. 25 at the Main Street Gallery, where some materials will be available for people to make nichos — tiny altars.

McRoberts said they will be using small matchboxes to make the colorful nichos, which are not only used for the Day of the Dead, but also for good luck, changing careers, health and other occasions.

El Dia de los Muertos exhibit opened Friday and will be on display through Oct. 27 at the Main Street Gallery located at 330 Main St.