Kelli Makenna Kuttruff
The Ontario Museum of History and Art held an art-making class Saturday to kick off the 25th anniversary of the museum’s Día de los Muertos exhibition, in which the students will be able to display their dishes and mugs, which they glazed and decorated in class.
The exhibition will run from Oct. 5 to Nov. 19, and the goal is to feature 80 dishes in the trastero display from both this class and the art-making class taking place on Sept. 23. The display will include a colorful mural of a trastero, which is similar to a cabinet, painted by two artists and hanging shelves presenting the artwork from this class.
The museum curators wished to make an interactive workshop experience led by an artist where the students could create artwork that would become part of their community installation. The theme of this year’s exhibition is “Recuerdos de Sabores,” meaning flavorful memories.
Curator of Education Miriam Valle-Mancilla said that when celebrating Día de los Muertos, it is tradition to create altars and give an offering (ofrenda) to honor a family member who has passed away, which is often food.
“We thought it would be great if our public could create something that they could use and honor their family with,” Valle-Mancilla said, which is how they came up with the idea to decorate plates and mugs for the exhibit.
“Our food carries so much memory with us,” she added.
The connection with this art making class and Día de los Muertos is what encouraged guest Martha Gutierrez to bring her 7-year-old son Robert to the event. As a high school Spanish teacher, she celebrates Día de los Muertos with her students and makes an ofrenda in her classroom.
“I want to display my art,” Gutierrez said.
This class will give her the opportunity to show her dish or mug to her students, and use it for their celebration.
Each interactive event here is free and open to students of all skill levels. The museum even offers bilingual instruction so that their events can be accessible to everyone in the community.
Visitor Sandra Martinez surprised her two sons, Jeffrey and Ricardo, by taking them to the art making event. Although they have not been to the museum before, they were excited about the idea of their art being displayed in the upcoming Día de los Muertos exhibit.
“It’s great for them to know about the traditions, I want to teach them about it,” Martinez said.
“My mom was big on this day, and I want to pass it down,” she added.
The class was led by painter and ceramicist Karla Camacho, who went to art school at Cal State Long Beach and studied studio art with an emphasis in illustration.
“A lot of my work touches on themes of remembrance and how we remember our ancestors and connect to them,” Camacho said.
In teaching this class, Camacho wished for students to create pieces that were intentional by using shapes and colors that remind them of ancestors that are no longer here.
“I think that’s the whole idea of Día de los Muertos,” Camacho said, “To welcome and honor our ancestors back into our life so that they continue living in other ways.”
Through the expert instruction and meticulous planning of this art making event, students were able to create pieces that not only helped them honor their ancestors, but gave them the opportunity to be immersed in the traditions of Día de los Muertos. The Ontario Museum of History and Art provided the possibility to learn, grow and celebrate all at once in an experience that students can be proud of.
Kelli Makenna Kuttruff can be reached at email@example.com.