Community Ensembles

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2020 Event
October 28, 2020 - November 9, 2020

Día de los Muertos returns to Art Center East! Like everything this year, however, we’ve had to make a few changes. Most of our celebration will take place online or at home (read on!), with the exception of our Community Ofrenda.

The Community Ofrenda will be open to the public starting on October 28 – you are welcome to place a photo or memento of a lost loved one on it (plan to pick up your item(s) on November 9 or 10). Papers will be available for writing a message, or you may bring your own. See the ofrenda with all of its candles lit on Friday, October 30 from 4 – 6 pm.

Rather than classroom art on the gallery walls this year, you are invited to leave your own contribution to our community art wall when you visit. SCROLL BELOW to see the gallery!

About Día de los Muertos: Join Art Center East to experience this special holiday, recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Día de los Muertos is a Mexican national holiday that, despite its name, celebrates the joys of life and offers an annual opportunity to honor loved ones who have passed. Its tone is playful and celebratory, and its traditions highlight the importance of family, both living and dead.

This Exhibit is supported by a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation’s Latino Partnership Program.


28 de octubre – 9 de noviembre, 2020

¡Día de los Muertos regresa a Art Center East! Sin embargo, como todo en este año, hemos tenido que hacer algunos cambios. La mayor parte de nuestra celebración se llevará a cabo por internet o en casa (¡siga leyendo!), con la excepción de nuestra Ofrenda Comunitaria.

La Ofrenda Comunitaria estará abierta al público a partir del 28 de octubre; puede colocar en nuestra ofrenda una foto o un recuerdo de un ser querido ya ido. Habrá papeles disponibles para escribirle un mensaje, o puede traer los suyos. Vea la ofrenda con todas sus velas encendidas el viernes 30 de octubre de 4 a 6 pm. (planee recoger sus artículos el 9 o 10 de noviembre).

En lugar de arte en el salón de clases en las paredes de la galería este año, le invitamos a dejar su propia contribución a la pared de arte de nuestra comunidad cuando visite. ¡Vuelve hacia el final de la exhibición para ver lo que otros han agregado!

Acerca del Día de los Muertos: Únase al Art Center East para vivir esta fiesta especial, reconocida por la UNESCO como Patrimonio Cultural Inmaterial. El Día de los Muertos es una fiesta nacional mexicana que, a pesar de su nombre, celebra las alegrías de la vida y ofrece una oportunidad anual para honrar a los seres queridos que han fallecido. Su tono es lúdico y festivo, y sus tradiciones resaltan la importancia de la familia, tanto viva como muerta.

Esta exhibición cuenta con el apoyo de una subvención del Programa de Asociación Latina de la Oregon Community Foundation.

Community Ofrenda



November 1 - November 11

Help us honor community – past and present – with a Día de Los Muertos exhibit and community ofrenda. The exhibit will feature K-12 artwork made by 15+ classrooms, representing each of Union County’s school districts. The artwork created by these classrooms is inspired by Mexican folk art associated with Día de Los Muertos.

In the three days leading up to Día de Los Muertos – Oct 30, 31, & Nov 1 – community members are encouraged to bring a framed photo of a departed loved one along with other traditional offerings, such as shelf-stable food items, small objects, handwritten messages, or mementos that symbolize things your loved one enjoyed in life. Symbols of any faith are welcome as appropriate to the ofrenda’s purpose as a place to honor departed family and friends, and celebrate the joys of life. Please label the back of items you wish to keep with your name and phone number and plan to pick them up on November 11.

Join us to experience this special holiday, recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage, whether it is your first Día de Los Muertos or one of many.

Dates: November 1 – 11, 2019

Community Celebration: Friday, November 1, 2019 starting at 6:00 pm

Cost: Free Admission

Art Center East’s second annual Día de los Muertos / Day of the Dead exhibit and community celebration will open on November 1 from 6-9 pm. The exhibit features artworks created by K-12 classrooms throughout Union County that are inspired by Mexican folk-art traditions associated with Día de los Muertos. The public is invited to attend the family-friendly community celebration on November 1 and visit the exhibit during gallery hours between November 1 – 11. Both the exhibit and celebration are free admission.

Día de los Muertos is a Mexican national holiday recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage. Despite its name – and imagery that evokes skulls and skeletons – Día de los Muertos celebrates the joys of life and offers an annual opportunity to honor loved ones who have passed. Its tone is playful and light, and its traditions highlight the importance of family, both living and dead.

“We held our first Día de los Muertos exhibit and celebration in 2018 in order to invite the community to interact with our gallery space in a meaningful way that is different from that of a traditional gallery exhibit,” said Sarah West, Art Center East Community Outreach Coordinator. “The exhibit and event were both a huge success and we’re looking forward to expanding it with new partnerships this year.”

One of those partnerships is with Latino Impact, an EOU student group focused on highlighting Latino culture, who will run the event’s face painting station. Art Center East received funding from the Union County Safe Communities Coalition Youth Council to offer a free screening of Pixar’s Coco that starts at 6:30 pm, and from the Union County Cultural Coalition in order to subsidize the cost of tamales available at the event. The $1 tamales will again be made by La Fiesta, a family-owned restaurant based in La Grande. The celebration will also include art-making stations and a dress-up photo booth.

This year’s exhibit will double the number of participating classrooms whose artwork is on display, drawing from the North Powder, La Grande, Island City, Union, Elgin, and Imbler school districts. Art Center East provides an optional curriculum guide, though the art projects are facilitated entirely by classroom teachers. The exhibit celebrates Día de los Muertos folk-art traditions and Mexican cultural themes while at the same time highlighting Art Center East’s mission to encourage and expand access to the arts in Northeast Oregon.

One of the most popular elements of the exhibit is the Community Ofrenda, a place to leave photos, notes, or other mementos for loved ones that have passed. “Last year’s ofrenda was completely covered with pictures and notes by the end of the exhibit’s run,” said West. “I was particularly moved by the way it offered a safe space for public grieving, which isn’t something for which we have many avenues to express or witness.” Community members are invited to bring items for this year’s ofrenda starting on October 29. A secondary free event called The Lost Table will offer community members a chance to share stories about their lost loved ones on Saturday, November 2 from 4-6 pm.

The November 1 community celebration will conclude with a raffle, the second of four drawings in Art Center East’s Raffle Extravaganza. The raffle’s limited ticket system allows you to purchase tickets just for the prizes you’d like to win and includes items and experiences from local artists and businesses. Proceeds support free community programming at Art Center East.

Art Center East’s Día de los Muertos is made possible in part by support from the Oregon Cultural Trust.


November 2 - November 14

Art Center East will host a community celebration for Day of the Dead on November 2, 2018 from 6 - 9 pm. The event will feature an exhibit of Day of the Dead themed artwork created by K-12 students in the Grand Ronde Valley, as well as a community altar. The art exhibit and altar will be on display in the Main Gallery from November 2 - 14, 2018. The exhibit and community celebration are both free and open to the public.

Though Day of the Dead sugar skulls and costumed skeletons have become more commonplace in the U.S as an extension of Halloween imagery, they are not traditionally intended to be spooky. Day of the Dead (Día de Los Muertos) came about as a fusion between the Catholic All Souls’ Day and ancestor-honoring traditions of indigenous Mexico. Combining Mexican folk art, vibrant colors, music, food, and family, Day of the Dead is a memorial holiday that encourages meaningful reflection on the beauty and fleetingness of life. Its unique traditions are recognized by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The November 2 community celebration will offer fun for the whole family, including face painting, art activities, complementary and low-cost refreshments, and a free screening of Pixar’s Coco. Union County Safe Communities Coalition (UCSCC) Youth Council is sponsoring the screening. "The UCSCC Youth Council is thrilled to be a part of this amazing event,” said UCSCC Coordinator, Robin Wortman. “Art Center East does wonderful things for our community."

Starting October 30, community members are invited to bring a photograph or item that represents a deceased loved one to add to the community altar.

Art Center East created a curriculum packet with art activities that explore several aspects of the Day of the Dead aesthetic tradition. Area teachers will use the curriculum in their fall lesson plan and students will display their finished work in Art Center East’s gallery. This is the first Art Center East main gallery exhibit exclusively featuring artwork made in partnership with area schools. The program offers students a chance to learn more about another culture while exploring their own worldview and family history through the creative process.

“Art is uniquely positioned to move people in various ways,” said Mika Morton, co-director of Art Center East. “It inspires communities, empowers individuals, and even helps young children learn new skills and concepts. We are so excited to be working with teachers and students from area schools as they learn about this unique cultural tradition and create art inspired by the Day of the Dead.”

Along with the exhibit and community celebration, Art Center East is also offering Day of the Dead themed classes. On October 26, learn how to make and decorate sugar skulls, or calaveras, traditionally used to decorate the family altar. Learn about large-scale painting while joining local artist, Damian Garcia, in creating a paneled mural with Day of the Dead imagery. The finished mural will be displayed as part of the two week exhibit.