Celebrating with the dead

WHAT: Día de los Muertos WHEN: Art hanging party on Saturday, Nov. 1 from 1 p.m. 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 2 from 1 p.m.-9 p.m. Procession at 8 p.m. WHERE: Altered Esthetics. TICKETS: Free. In the historic Northeast Minneapolis QâÄôarma building, several community artists cut swaths of lively colored tissue paper and fashion them into the shape of marigolds. When the flowers have taken shape, they toss them into an overflowing box on the floor. On Saturday, these artists and other community members will fill their bright, wood-beamed space with these vibrant colors for Día de los Muertos, a celebration of the dead. But the mood isnâÄôt somber here. At Altered Esthetics, the Northeast Minneapolis gallery committed to providing an outlet for artists who act as a voice for society, the intention is to treat death as a celebratory reflection of life. This fall marks the second year the gallery will hold the celebration, which begins on Saturday with an art-hanging party, and continues on Sunday with a walking candle-light procession around the neighborhood. Last year, Margaret Gamache, an artist who lives in Northeast, was going to participate in the candle-lit procession because she thought it was a cool idea. But when her brother died, the event took on new meaning. Instead of simply attending the community art event in support of others, she carried a picture of her brother. She said the procession gave her an opportunity to joyfully heal, which is rare in a society that primarily associates death with sadness. âÄúWe donâÄôt know how to deal with death. But to honor and feel good about it is really neat,âÄù said Gamache. This year, Margaret finds herself again celebrating the lives of close family who have died. Both her mother and another brother passed away in the past year and this weekend will be a chance for her to honor and reflect on their lives. Día de los Muertos, or âÄòDay of the DeadâÄô, is a celebration traditional to Mexico and some other Latin American countries. For many, itâÄôs a holiday important enough to close businesses and workplaces. People invite the spirits of their loved ones to join them for the foods they most savored while they were still in the flesh. Kids make paper flowers and eat candy sugar skulls. Adults caringly clean the gravesites of their departed family. And once congregated around the grave, many have a party. Celebrating this event is part of Altered EstheticsâÄô mission to give an artful outlet to the community. âÄúWe use art as a language to communicate what is important to people,âÄù said Jamie Schumacher, the founder and director of the gallery. Many of the artists are not concerned with making profit-oriented art. âÄúMy work was never desired âĦ My stuff isnâÄôt commercial,âÄù Gamache said. âÄúThis venue gives me the opportunity to show my work.âÄù And during Día de los Muertos, the event gives contributing artists an opportunity to grow and accept the death of family or friends âÄî tragic events that many people never properly mourn. And they do so with a party. Gamache, who works mostly with mixed-media collage, pulled from a bag a dark, glossy work dubbed âÄúFrontyard Graveyard.âÄù ItâÄôs a collage of photos and magazine cut outs. âÄúItâÄôs a pretty heavy piece,âÄù she said with an upbeat chortle. Anyone can bring in art on Saturday to the set-up party. In the past, some people have brought âÄòofrendas,âÄô a display of offerings to the most recently departed members of a family. For Gamache, who is participating for the second year in a row with family on the mind, some relief comes with the celebration. The artist says sheâÄôs incredibly appreciative that such a celebration exists. âÄúBut I hope next year IâÄôm only carrying some actor who I love who died,âÄù she joked.