For the past 17 years, Charles Perez has worked with local artists and residents to continue the tradition revolving around the annual Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) event. Originating in Mexico, the traditional holiday and celebration serves as a way to provide participants the opportunity to focus on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey. Locally, Perez first began pulling a local celebration in 2000 with the help of local mural artist Ruben Sanchez. And while the event has remained true to the culture it comes from and its traditional purpose, it has grown into one of the primer Dia De Los Muertos celebrations in the area.
"The whole Dia de Los Muertos exhibit is an experience, it's educational and cultural, I wanted to add to it by creating something that would be an experience"
Having grown in size to include a wide variety of artists and other participants alike, the Dia De Los Muertos event curation team has likewise grown. This year’s celebration is curated by Charles Perez along with Richard Gomez, Martha Azevedo, and Oscar Torres. As with past celebrations, this year’s event features dozens of alters, masks, and paintings by local artists in celebration and remembrance of their loved ones throughout the two floors of gallery space at the Merced Arts Center.
As residents make their way inside of the Merced Arts Center’s Main Gallery space to view the Dia De Los Muertos exhibit, they are greeted by a traditional La Catrina. Standing just under 20 feet, the free standing sculpture was designed and developed by local artist Eulalia Gamez, who took on the challenge for the second year in a row after witnessing the exhibit and wanting to add her own unique touch to the event. “The whole Dia de Los Muertos exhibit is an experience, it's educational and cultural, I wanted to add to it by creating something that would be an experience,” said Gamez. She went on to say that her creation this year was inspired by Aztec headdresses, corncobs and stories of the Quetza, and took over 80 hours to complete just the headdress that sits atop the artwork.
On display until November 11th, the Dia De Los Muertos exhibit will feature a unique reception on October 28th from 4PM until 9PM. During the reception, participants will have the chance to not only view the variety of artworks and alters that make up the exhibit, but will be invited to join in a traditional Dia De Los Muertos procession at sunset to remember and reflect on loved ones lost for a $1.00. Those who would like to participate in the procession are encouraged to bring wear traditional Dia De Los Muertos outfits, bring LED candles, and carry a photo of those you
would like to celebrate with them. Those who are interested in more information are encouraged to stop by the Merced Arts Center at 645 West Main Street Tuesday thru Friday from 11AM until 6PM, or on Saturdays from 10AM until 2PM, visit them online at ArtsMerced.org, or speak to them over the phone by calling 209.388.1090.