LOS ANGELES — Grand Park will again honor the cultural tradition of Día de los Muertos — Day of the Dead — with a series of free, family friendly programs curated for the COVID era, with a focus on personal well-being and collective healing throughout the 12-day celebration. 

The eighth annual Grand Park’s Downtown Día de los Muertos, a presentation by TMC Arts, The Music Center’s programming engine, takes place from Saturday to Nov. 4, with a mix of digital programs, including an online arts-based workshop, digital ofrendas (altars) and audio storytelling, along with socially distant public art installations in Grand Park and on The Music Center Plaza. 

Grand Park continues its long-standing artistic partnership with Self Help Graphics (SHG), which is curating 11 large-scale altar installations by artists and community partner organizations, including the annual Community Altar created by Maestra Ofelia Esparza; a 2018 NEA National Heritage Fellow, Esparza, and her family, are instrumental in preserving and conserving Día de los Muertos in Los Angeles. Understanding the toll the pandemic has taken on individuals and communities throughout Los Angeles, Grand Park’s Downtown Día de los Muertos will also help raise the importance of coping skills and mental health awareness: “Healing Sanctuaries” and “Soul Survivors” are two photo exhibits that will be located on The Music Center Plaza containing messaging and suggested public resources, from the Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health and WHY WE RISE.

While Grand Park and The Music Center Plaza are open to the public, all park- and plaza-goers who experience the art installations are strictly required to maintain social distancing, including not clustering in groups and wearing masks. Signage and markers throughout both locations will assist with reinforcing the critical need for park- and plaza-goers to comply with all prevailing Los Angeles County Department of Public Health requirements. In order to maintain minimal crowds and to help those who wish to engage with this vital ritual and tradition, ample images and video of the installations will be made available on Grand Park, The Music Center and Self Help Graphics social media channels. 

Alongside the online workshop, these public art installations will provide opportunities for the public to be inspired by and empowered to bring Día de los Muertos into their homes and other spaces safely where they can create their own art and ofrendas.

“Grand Park’s Día de los Muertos accentuates and honors life by reuniting the living and the dead through remembrance,” Julia Diamond, director, Grand Park said. “This year, Grand Park’s combination of digital and public art programming takes on special meaning in addressing the stress, fear and anxiety many in our community are experiencing as a result of COVID-19 and the many inequities and injustices in our society, especially against communities of color, that the pandemic has laid bare this year.”

Forest Lawn Dia de los Muertos celebrations

Forest Lawn will continue its tradition of bringing authentic Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebrations to the community with this year’s virtual event. From noon to 2 p.m., Nov. 1, Forest Lawn in Glendale, will transform viewers’ homes into majestic spaces for remembrance with marigolds, live and larger-than-life sculpture Catrinas, folkloric dance performances, Mariachi music, a Bob Baker Marionette Theater performance, bilingual prayer and spoken word, a brightly colored ofrenda (altar), and more. 

Highlights for the Día de los Muertos celebration include: 

• Folklorico dance performances by Ballet Folklorico Internacional

• Mariachi performances by Mariachi Juvenil Herencia Mexicana

• Bob Baker Marionette Theater performance

• Bilingual religious ceremony led by Father Mario Juarez from Christ Cathedral with Mariachi Juvenil Herencia Mexicana  

• Live and larger-than-life sculpture Catrinas

Forest Lawn’s virtual Día de los Muertos celebration marks the second appearance of six-foot-tall Catrina sculptures, artisanal creations crafted by Forest Lawn’s floral designers and inspired by Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations. The skeletal women symbolize the return of departed loved ones and are a reminder to be true to oneself and enjoy life. 

Each of Forest Lawn’s Catrina sculptures has her own personality, with distinct costumes and accessories inspired by the early twentieth century, the time period when Catrinas were first popularized by Jose Guadalupe Posada and Diego Rivera. In addition to the sculptures, there will be two live Catrinas.

“Forest Lawn will miss welcoming the public to our Día de los Muertos celebration in person, but we look forward to transforming this anticipated annual event into a virtual celebration,” Rodolfo Saenz, Forest Lawn’s senior vice president, Marketing said. “Our virtual event will create authentic, at-home experiences for our community, allowing the public to celebrate and learn about Day of the Dead’s distinct traditions.”

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