El Dia de los Muertos

October is mostly known for the American holiday of Halloween, where people of all ages dress up in costume and trick or treat for candy and other goodies in their neighborhoods.  This holiday has its own traditions, such as carving pumpkins, bobbing for apples, trading candy, visiting spooky houses, and so on.

However, there is another Fall holiday that the Dallas Museum of Art is celebrating : El Dia de Los Muertos–or Day of the Dead! 

The Day of the Dead is a time of celebration and remembrance of loved ones who have passed away, much like Memorial Day in the United States.  Many Latin American and Mexican cultures celebrate Dia de Los Muertos on November 1st and 2nd.  The Dallas Museum of Art will be celebrating this cultural holiday as part of its Family Celebration: Ancient Mexico, on Sunday, October 28th from 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.

Ofrendas, or offerings.

Dia de los Muertos is a joyous occasion where loved ones are honored and remembered through the creation of fantastic art and delicious treats.  Inside households, families create special altars, called ofrendas (offerings), which are decorated with breads, candies, food, drinks, and flowers, all of which are meant to celebrate the lost loved ones.

Perhaps the most iconic image related to The Day of the Dead celebration is the skull!

Sugar skulls are probably the most common candies made this time of year.  They can be made with plain sugar or chocolate, and are often decorated with sequins, pieces of metallic paper and colored sugar paste.  There will be a sugar skull demonstration from artist Maggie Wolters during the Family Celebration, and families will be able to decorate their own skull masterpiece.  Additionally, local master chocolatiers, CocoAndre, will be on hand during the afternoon to teach the Art of Chocolate to families, as well as lead them in the creation of a chocolate skeleton.

Artist Diego Rivera was also attracted to using skulls/skeletons in his art, portraying a skeleton lady (or La Catrina) in his famous mural, Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda (dream of a Sunday afternoon in the Alameda park)

Detail from central section of Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda (dream of a Sunday afternoon in the Alameda park) Fresco 1947-1948, 50 ft long x 13 ft high

Skulls and skeletons are reproduced as Day of the Dead art in almost every available material, including wood, papier mache, plaster and bread dough.  The repetition of these images in many locations and in a variety of materials , allows the subject matter to seem less scary and intimidating.  Remember El Dia de los Muertos is a day of celebration!

Here is a quick art project utilizing the skull theme that families can do to prepare for the upcoming Family Celebration: Ancient Mexico at the DMA.  All you need is:

  • paper plates
  • markers (or crayons)
  • scissors
  • glue (or tape)
  • popsicle stick (or pencil)


Flip the paper plate over, and draw your skull outline on the bottom of the plate.  The outer edge will act as the bottom of the skull.  Cut out the shape with scissors once your skull shape is complete.

Use markers or crayons to decorate your skull.  Be as imaginative as possible!  Sugar skulls often have floral motifs, hearts, and spiderwebs patterns.

Once your skull is fully decorated, attach it to a popsicle stick or pencil with either glue or tape.  And voila!  You have your very own Dia de los Muertos mask!  Make sure to bring your decorations to this weekend’s Ancient Mexico Family Celebration.  Click here for a full list of the festivities!





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Filed under Art Projects, DMA Programs, Uncategorized

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