On Saturday, Oct. 26, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 27, from noon to 5 p.m., the Mesa Arts Center campus will host a celebration of the memory of departed loved ones with the annual Dia de los Muertos Festival.
The free festival will offer a nonstop schedule of live entertainment, participatory family activities, traditional face painting, a wide variety of food options, studio demonstrations, and a Mercado Marketplace, featuring traditional and contemporary merchandise, jewelry, and Mexican arts and crafts from over 40 local artisans and vendors.
Through a partnership with the Mexican Consulate, artists Oscar Becerra Mora and Ruben Miguel Castillo Navarette of Mexican folk art will be in residence at Mesa Arts Center during the month of October to create an original, large-scale, alebrije, which is a brightly colored Mexican folk art sculpture. In additional to the large alebrije which will be installed at the festival, the artists will also offer free workshops wherein participants can learn about the art form, see demonstrations of how they are created and take home a small alebrije for themselves.
In the spirit of traditional Dia de los Muertos festivities, a community altar designed by artist Kyllan Maney with Mesa Arts Center volunteers, will be the centerpiece for the festival, where attendees can leave mementos in honor of their loved ones who have passed.
Tucson-based Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford, award-winning bilingual children’s book author and writer of Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes Read Along Storybook & Audiobook, My Tata’s Remedies, My Nana’s Remedies, and Hip, Hip, Hooray, It’s Monsoon Day!, will offer storytime and book signings throughout the event. Miguel and the Amazing Alebrijes was commissioned by Disney and inspired by the movie Coco.
Altars created by community groups, schools and families will also be on display for a festival contest sponsored by the Mexican Consulate and Mesa Association of Hispanic Citizens.
Festival participants of all ages are invited to decorate ceramics pieces and make paper flowers, along with other hands-on activities. Festivalgoers can also enjoy face painting inspired by symbols of the Day of the Dead commemoration and live painting by artists Champ and Such Styles, La Morena, Mando Rascon and Lalo Cota.
The festival will culminate in a performance and an open procession to the Community Altar led by Mariachi Pasion at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 27. Mesa Arts Center’s art studios will offer free demonstrations throughout the festival and The Store, an artists cooperative and gallery will also be open and offering Day of the Dead themed items.
The event is also sponsored in part by the Mexican Consulate, Crescent Crown Distributing, DPR Construction, First Things First, Food City, Modelo, First Things First, 93.3 Alt AZ, 100.7 KSLX, Waymo and Phoenix New Times. There is no charge to attend the Dia de los Muertos Festival, and parking is free. Mesa Arts Center is located at One East Main Street in downtown Mesa.