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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Spinning A Family Story In A New Key!

A popular saying I grew up with has something to do with whether mature canines can learn a few new tricks. We'll skip my age so I can happily write about the wonderful opportunity Tacoma Art Museum extended to area residents in connection with Dia de Los Muertes!
For those of you with Latin, Mexican or Catholic roots, I wasn't as fortunate. My American-born parents attended Protestant Christian churches in my childhood and so did I. They also didn't feel particularly comfortable in places where they weren't among familiar surroundings and in their element. And my grandparents on both sides of the family immigrated from Japan before World War II. Hence my need for some education in mid-life on a few of the particulars surrounding this empowering celebration of life and death now more often associated with Hispanic cultures.

Above: Handmade felt "buttoned lips" will be part of Mizu Sugimura's Japanese-American take on an altar she's creating at Tacoma Art Museum for their upcoming community celebration of Dia de Los Muertes.

That introduction Tacoma Art Museum personnel were happy to supply on Saturday, September 22, at the award-winning facility along Pacific Avenue. Since then, I have kept my eyes open for little bits of this and that while setting aside a portion of my living room floor to construct a mock-up altar on which to use as a 3-dimensional blackboard on a few passing ideas. More significantly, I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of seeing the pattern of my regular ordinary life unfolding out in a totally different way and the invaluable and truly priceless educational component of it all hasn't cost me more than a dime!

However family members will heave a deep, deep sign of relief when I load what I have into the trunk of my car this Sunday, October 21 and head for the museum with over 24 others who have answered the museum's call for community members to come and build the altars that will grace the third floor during the eighth annual free family-oriented celebration of Dia de Los Muertos at TAM scheduled for Sunday, November 4, from 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Above: Handmade life preservers represent an artistic riff on traditional shapes of bread. Photo copyright 2012 by Mizu M. Sugimura.

The free community festival will merge music, dance, food, art-making, live performances and an exhibition of sand painting as well as the community altars and celebrate the cycle of life which I've come lately to believe is one of the more deep and meaningful connections we have lost certainly during my own lifetime.

And while I am very much looking forward to launching my ideas of what the time-honored tradition means to mean as a third-generation American of Japanese descent the exercise in creativity I am very happy to report has already paid off.

For those of you who like journaling or know of someone who does, making an altar for Dia de Los Muertes is something like putting a pen, pencil and a handful of art supplies to a pristine blank page. In short, it's very addicting.

Fortunately, more experienced and talented hands than mine will also be at work fashioning the altars you will enjoy at this year's celebration. At the time I attended the offical training in September, several local high schools were in board in additional individuals, families and organizations. And while you'll have to wait until November 4 for the free community celebration, everyday museum goers and their guests may enjoy the finished altars during regular museum days and hours as part of their Fall 2012 TAM experience!

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