Día de los Muertos legacy

Día de los muertos | DAY OF THE DEAD

Self Help Graphics & Art (SHG) has organized one of the most popular Día de los Muertos events in Los Angeles and perhaps, the oldest in the country for over four decades. SHG provides the community with a season of activities from September to November, to celebrate and prepare for the grand ceremony held on or near November 2nd. The season-long program draws over 50 community organizations, 150 plus volunteers and over 15,000 attendees.

The season begins with Community Arts Workshops held every Saturday in October at SHG, inviting participants to learn about and create traditional crafts to honor the dead. A commemorative limited edition fine art serigraph (print) is also produced by an invited artist during this period and premiered at the annual exhibition during the Día de los Muertos celebration.  

A day of art workshops concludes with the construction of a large community altar at SHG’s Noche de Ofrenda (Community Altar Night) at Grand Park, a solemn evening of reflection and remembrance. Over the past three years, SHG has partnered with Grand Park to expand the reach of this beautiful evening with over 40 plus organizations, partners and artists installing unique altars. Led by premier altar-maker and community resident, Ofelia Esparza, participants are invited to place their newly created offerings or objects brought from home on the community altar for display throughout our Dia de los Muertos festivities.

The season culminates with the Día de los Muertos celebration at SHG’s held on or near November 2nd. The celebration includes a procession and blessing along with art, craft vendors, music, food and workshops for the community.


 

Free Community Art Workshops 

Every Saturday in October, Self Help Graphics offers free art workshops where participants will learn about and create traditional crafts to honor the dead. Each Saturday afternoon are fun & filled with tradición alongside old and new friends. The workshops are free, for all ages and all materials are included. Information on specific workshops is forthcoming.

Commemorative Print & Exhibition

Every year SHG invites an artist to create a limited edition serigraph to commemorate the year’s Dia de los Muertos Celebration, and to curate a group exhibition based on that year’s theme. The exhibition inaugurates on or near November 2nd.

Main Celebration

On or near November 2nd, participants take part in a public procession alongside life-size Calaveras, carrying personal and family items that are carried and offered to the deceased at a large Community Altar. The procession and traditional blessing kick off a festive celebration with arts, crafts and food vendors, musical performances, face painting, and children’s art workshops. Over 10,000 guests enjoy this community gathering that celebrates community, life, and death.

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Noche de Ofrenda

A day of art workshops concludes with the construction of a large community altar at Self Help Graphics & Art’s Noche de Ofrenda at Grand Park. Over the past three years, SHG has partnered with Grand Park to expand the reach of this beautiful community altar night with over 40 plus organizations, partners and artists installing unique altars. Led by premier altar-maker and community resident, Ofelia Esparza, participants are invited to place their newly created offerings or to bring objects from home together in creating a community altar for display throughout our Dia de los Muertos festivities. This inspirational and important art of traditional altar making serves as a way for the community to contribute their memories with special tokens of remembrance. Poetry readings, Pan de Muerto, and Xocolatl are also part of this special evening.


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History

The revival of the indigenous holiday Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) was part of the Mexican-American reclamation of indigenous identity, an important social aspect of the Chicano Movement, and SHG played an integral role in the holiday’s revival in California. The first celebration was in 1972, and today, Day of the Dead is one of Los Angeles’s major celebrations celebrated by diverse audiences. The event has not only been the occasion to learn about the important role that heritage and tradition play in defining who we are, but has also been used to make artistic and political statements.

In 1974, the Chicano conceptual and performance group ASCO used the ceremony as a tool to confront a by-then entrenched social and political culture with an irreverent “invasion”. In the midst of ceremonies attended by Los Angeles’s political elite, ASCO members, Harry Gamboa, Jr., Patssi Valdez, Gronk, and Willie Herrón were “delivered” in a giant envelope marked postage due. ASCO redefined this event in their statement “Day of the Dead can mean a lot of different of things, and it doesn’t necessarily mean paper cutouts, skull heads. We can invent it, what it means to us.”

Throughout its history, well-known artists, including but not limited to Yolanda Gonzalez; Wayne Healy; Miguel Angel Reyes; Ester Hernandez; Carlos Almaraz; Eduardo Oropeza; ASCO members- -Harry Gamboa, Gronk, Willie Herron and Patssi Valdez; Judy Baca; Chaz Bojorquez; Los Four; and the East Los Streetscapers have participated and contributed to the program’s tradition and success.

 

Previous Exhibitions