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Bringing life to death

Local community celebrations lighten up dark topic

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Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, will bring Tacoma revelers a reason to get over the post-Halloween remorse, with a series of culturally inspired events that bring a sense of light to a dark topic.

Colorful, light hearted, and moody all at the same time, the celebrations locally center more on community revelry, whereas in Mexico the event is marked more by private remembrances in homes, as well as visits to cemeteries.

Even still, local observances of the holiday bring to light a cultural awareness rich in tradition that brings the topic of death and remembrance a richness and accessibility not generally seen in western culture.

An ongoing show at the Two Vaults Gallery features artifacts and art from artists Carol Mosher, Susan Cowan, Mykel Jantz, and Chanda Castillo. Whimsical touches like a heart clock on a life-sized driftwood skeleton and intricate clay characters mesh with the more somber entities, like an altar celebrating lives lost crossing the border, making perusing the space a fun but enlightening way to appreciate the cultural observance that originates in Mexico, celebrating the spirits of those who passed.

Friday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m., starting at Masa restaurant, another facet of the holiday will be celebrated on Sixth Avenue as the third annual Day of the Dead Procession infuses local creativity with spirit. Inspired in part by a celebration like it on Phinney Ridge in the Seattle neighborhood of Ballard, and in part by the village processions from houses to gravesites, the event brings community spirit together with cultural education, and caps the celebration off with sweet breads and Mexican hot cocoa enjoyed in the Dia de los Muertos-themed restaurant.

Finally topping off the celebration in grand community style, the Tacoma Art Museum caps a month of events with a free community celebration on Sunday, Nov. 4 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Museum.

Held in conjunction with Centro Latino, the festival celebrates Dia de los Muertos with traditional music and dance, food, art activities, sugar skull decoration, and displays of art that include a traditional Tapete, or sand painting, and community altars honoring passed loved ones, as well as student artwork demonstrations.

This family friendly event brings together cultural iconography with activities that bring to light how a grim subject can be celebrated — and enjoyed — by all ages, inviting conversation about loss, remembrance, and the rich fabric of diversity.

[Two Vaults Gallery, 602 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma, 253.759.6233]

[Masa, Friday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m., free, 2811 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, 253.254.0560]

[Tacoma Art Museum, Sunday, Nov. 4, noon to 5 p.m., free, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.4258]

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