Utah Museum of Fine Arts educates guests through Dia de Los Muertos celebration

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Youth dancers performing at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts Dia de Los Muertos celebration. (Emma Johnson)

The Utah Museum of Fine Arts celebrated Dia de Los Muertos Saturday, Nov. 2, with a special exhibit featuring community altars, traditional live music, dance and spoken-word performances.

Jorge Rojas, event coordinator and director of learning and engagement at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts, said the purpose of the event was to facilitate public conversations about the rich traditions of Dia de Los Muertos.

“Dia de Los Muertos is not a Mexican version of Halloween,” Rojas said. “It’s about celebrating our ancestors and the people that have gone on before us.”

Rojas said the highlight of the event was the showcasing of the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera’s “La Ofrenda,” or “The Offering” in English.

“This painting is directly connected to honoring this tradition of remembering ancestors and giving to them,” Rojas said.

Diego Rivera’s “La Ofrenda” on exhibit at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts on Nov. 2. (Emma Johnson)

Mindy Wilson, Utah Museum of Fine Arts director of marketing and communications, said museum staff hoped to help people become more sensitive to Hispanic traditions during Dia de Los Muertos.

“The mission of the UMFA is to celebrate the role of art in peoples’ lives,” Wilson said. “Images can create a critical dialogue that can connect people throughout the world and throughout history.”

Wilson said the museum’s lease of the Rivera painting was a perfect opportunity to celebrate Dia de Los Muertos in Utah.

To help create an authentic Dia de Los Muertos celebration, Wilson and the other staff engaged with partners such as Artes de México en Utah, an organization that promotes the appreciation of Mexican art in Utah.

“They really educated us about what the celebration really was about,” Wilson said. “We don’t think we’re the experts, but we hope we’re a place where people can have good conversations and where people can ask questions.”

Community Ofrendas displayed at the front of the Utah Museum of Fine Arts exhibit. (Emma Johnson)

Members of the Latino community in Utah said they were deeply grateful for the celebration. Many of them participated in the festivities, including traditional dances and mariachi bands.

“Dia de Los Muertos is a way for me to celebrate my family and keep them alive,” said Utah resident Margarita Gabriel. “It’s a great day for them to be alive with us and celebrate together.”

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