For Immediate Release
All Zones
September 29,  2000
For More Information Contact:
Roxane M. Geraci at (219) 980-6686
Indiana University Northwest
Office of Development, 
Marketing and Communications
Ancient Mexican Tradition Comes to Gallery Northwest

Altars decorated with symbolic items honoring deceased loved ones willbe displayed from October 9 to November 3 during the Día de LosMuertos (Day of the Dead) exhibit at IndianaUniversity Northwest’s Gallery Northwest. The exhibit, curated by Ann Fritz, gallery director andAna Osan, assistant professor of Spanish,will show the work of community residents, IU Northwest students and faculty,and students from East Chicago Central, Hammondand Portage High Schools.

Díade Los Muertos is an ancient festival that can be traced back tothe Aztec culture with November 1st and 2nd as the traditional days to celebrate,says Fritz. The First of November is known as “Night of the Angels,” andit is believed that on this day the spirits of infants and children are reunited with loved ones. It is also believed that on All Souls Day, November2, deceased adults come back to visit their families. Depending on theregion in Mexico, as well as the United States, the way Día deLos Muertos is celebrated varies. In urban areas, festivities tendto be more of a social event, while persons living in rural areas may placemore of an emphasis on the religious/spiritual aspects of the holiday. 

As with the Gallery Northwest exhibition, the altars with symbolic itemsare constructed by the living for the dead. They are traditionally in three tiers decorated with color paper. Purple represents pain, white represent shope, and pink symbolizes celebration. Photographs and personal belongingsare added to personalize the altars. According to Fritz, other symbolicitems on the altar may include candles that are burned “to light the wayfor the return of the dead,” three candy skulls that represent the “HolyTrinity,” and burning incense used to repel unwanted spirits. Special sweetbread  (pan de muertos) is often offered along with the favorite foodsof the deceased, and soap, water, and towels are left for the souls tocleanse themselves.

“There are no right or wrong ways of constructing an altar. These areonly ideas of what traditional altars are like.” There are no rules to follow as long as the altar’s objects are symbolic of the departed person.”Fritz also adds that the “uniqueness” of the altars at Gallery Northwest’sexhibit range from several altars made from cigar boxes to one made froma riding lawnmower in memory of the artist’s grandfather who had greatpassion for his yard and mower.

In celebration of Día de Los Muertos, Indiana UniversityNorthwest will build an altar with contributions from the campus and community.Individuals wanting to participate should bring in a photograph of a deceased loved one (human or animal), and a non-perishable food, animal food, ora toy. The food and toys will be distributed to Northwest Indiana familiesfor Thanksgiving. A cemetery will also be constructed outside TamarackHall.

In lieu of an opening reception, Gallery Northwest will be the siteof a Day of the Dead celebration on November 1 from 6 to 8 p.m. Open to the community, the event will include entertainment by Mariachi Acero,a presentation by Dr. Osan, and refreshments.

Gallery Northwestis located in Tamarack Hallon the northwest corner of the IU Northwest campus. Gallery hours are Monday and Wednesday, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.Evening hours are also available by request. For more information on theDía de Los Muertos exhibit or Gallery Northwest, contactFritz at 219-980-6891 or at,or Dr. Osan at 219-980-6691 or at 

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