For most, Halloween is about dressing up in costume and eating so many sweets that dentists are kept busy for the rest of the calendar year. But for others, the celebrated holiday, Día de los Muertos, is about honoring the spirits of loved ones.
Through November 2, the Greater Denton Arts Council (GDAC) is running an art exhibition featuring the spirit of the Day of the Dead. The display "Day of the Dead: Una Exhibicion", which is being put on by GDAC as well as the Denton Day of the Dead Festival and the Denton Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, features several altars created by local artists and businesses, as well as a community altar where visitors to the exhibit are welcome to bring mementos honoring their loved ones.
“Visitors are encouraged to bring a personal item of remembrance to add during the exhibition. Candles, flowers and photos are welcome,” said Tracy Bays-Boothe, executive director of GDAC.
Another part of the community altar is the butterfly installation. Visitors are invited to write the names of loved ones who have passed away on the wings of the butterflies and put them on the walls. This aligns with the Mexican legend of the Monarch butterflies, which return to Mexico for the winter around this time of year, bringing with them the deceased loved one’s spirits.
“What it does is represents the loved ones that have gone in the afterlife,” said Pete Garcia, president of the Denton Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Every year, the butterflies go home to Mexico. There are a lot of them, and they carry the spirits back home. So thank you for helping us with this celebration.”
The art exhibition (which will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday) is a great addition to the Denton Day of the Dead Festival, which starts at 11 a.m. and runs all afternoon and evening in the Industrial Street area. The festival prides itself on being a family-friendly event and has everything from a pumpkin patch to coffin races, a salsa cook-off and the Halloween musical Cirque du Horror, which was penned by the festival’s executive director, David Pierce.
“Day of the Dead is rooted in my desire to write a Halloween musical,” Pierce said. “It’s not just geared to adults, it’s geared to the entire family. I thought there should be a festival in Denton for this beautiful time of year. It has evolved so quickly and so rapidly into an all-encompassing autumnal festival. That has been my vision from the get-go. Just like that musical brought in people of all ages, the festival’s goal is to always involve the entire community and to come out and celebrate everything from Halloween to Día de los Muertos.”
Within the art exhibition, you can see altars built by the Tri-County Regional Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Denton Public Library, Ghosts of Denton, the Denton High School Spanish Honor Society, Oak Street Drafthouse and the Day of the Dead Festival organizers. Tracy said having the art tie into the rest of the festival makes sense in Denton.
“Denton’s a city where the arts are intrinsic to the city’s personality,” she said. “We really want to not only celebrate the arts, everything from dance to music to visual arts to theatre. We really want to honor our community and the artists that are here.”