For the first time in its exhibition history, the McClung Museum is celebrating the deeply rooted traditions and colorful spirit of the Day of the Dead. The Spirit of Día de los Muertos (The Spirit of Day of the Dead) is the museum’s first community collaboration exhibit created with guidance from Latino/a/x community members. The exhibition will open to the public on August 26 and be on view through December 11, 2022.
With displays in Spanish and English, The Spirit of Día de los Muertos highlights the rich history of the Mexican celebration that remembers loved ones passed. The exhibition opens with a traditional ofrenda (or altar) installation displaying an array of materials dedicated to deceased friends or family members. Familiar sights include colorful cempazúchitl (marigolds), ofrendas (altars) with food offerings, papel picados (decorative banners), and smartly dressed calaveras (skeletons).
Installations for the exhibition were created by community organizations and individuals including exhibition co-curator Martha Baltazar-Robson; Centro Hispano de East Tennessee Afterschool Programs; West High School National Art Honor Society and Chapter of Sociedad Honoraria Hispánica; Laura E. Contreras-Alanís and Evelyn Silva; and the University of Tennessee’s Latin American Student Organization (LASO) and Latinx Association of Graduate Students (LAGS). Their installations explore remembrance with themes as diverse as the Disney movie Coco to US-Mexico border crossings.
“This exhibition is a true community collaboration,” said Claudio Gómez, executive director of the McClung Museum. “The participating artists and groups have created incredible installations that bring the vibrant traditions of Día de los Muertos to life for the McClung Museum, the University of Tennessee, and Greater Knoxville area.”
The ofrendas and artwork by Knoxville-area artists explore how the modern-day celebration has incorporated contemporary imagery and symbols. The iconic La Catrina, an elegantly dressed skeleton, is the subject of paintings by Susana Esrequis, and Héctor Saldívar’s La Calavera Catrina y Quetzalcóatl. Colorful alebrijes (spirit animals) and skulls are featured in the work of Saldívar and Rebeca Ortiz.
The exhibition is presented by the University of Tennessee Division of Diversity and Engagement and supported by the Tennessee Arts Commission and Susan Navarro-Valenti.
“The Division of Diversity and Engagement is proud to be a sponsor of the McClung Museum’s first-ever exhibit for the Day of the Dead tradition, The Spirit of Día de los Muertos,” said Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement Tyvi Small. “We honor the rich history and importance of this Mexican celebration while being grateful for the opportunity to engage our local artistic community.”
In addition to the exhibition, the museum will host a community day celebrating the Day of the Dead in early November and other Spanish language programming throughout the fall semester. Visit mcclungmuseum.utk.edu for more details.
Exhibition Advisory Group members Jacqueline Avila, Megan Barolet-Fogarty, Susan Navarro-Valenti, Rosie Noriega, Jacquie Padilla, De Ann Pendry, Jaquelina Schmittlen, Rossy Toledo, and Pedro Tomás provided invaluable time, ideas, and support for the exhibition.
About the McClung Museum
The McClung Museum of Natural History and Culture is at 1327 Circle Park Drive. Museum admission is free, and visiting hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Visitors should register at tiny.utk.edu/visitmcclung and review the visitor guidelines, parking information, and check-in process.
If you would like more information, please contact Emily Reichard (firstname.lastname@example.org, 865-974-2144)