PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend School of the Arts has created an altar for the community to decorate in honor of Dia de los Muertos, or the “Day of the Dead,” which is celebrated in November.
Community members are encouraged to visit between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays until Nov. 2, when there will be a Day of the Dead party at the school’s space in Building 306 at Fort Worden State Park from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Our hope is that community members will come out and bring their mementos and offerings,” said Julie Read, one of the artists who helped create the altar.
Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday, and traditionally, families build an altar to honor family members who have died. Photos are placed on the altar and offerings of food and gifts are made.
The altar itself is placed on a table in the front of the school and was decorated by Read and local artists Lucie Duclos, Loran Scruggs and Nhatt Nichols.
The multi-tiered altar has space for community members to leave photos, small trinkets and notes in honor of dead loved ones.
Read said she — along with Holly Green, program and operations manager for the Port Townsend School of the Arts (PTSA) — had discussed a Day of the Dead celebration months ago and came up with the idea of a community altar.
“I grew up in the [San Francisco] Bay Area, and it [Day of the Dead] was a big influence for me and my kids,” said Green. “It’s a great way to make death not as scary and it’s a great way to remember loved ones.”
The PTSA has opened the altar to the community to honor anyone they have loved and lost, including pets. Green said they’ve had many of the school’s students drop off photos and other offerings since they set up the altar at the beginning of the month.
“It’s just nice to see community members come in,” said Green. “You get to hear the stories of people and the stories behind these mementos.”
Traditionally, Day of the Dead celebrations end with a procession to the graveyard where family members bring their offerings to the graves of their loved ones. At PTSA, however, they will be throwing a free community party Nov. 2 complete with tacos and Mexican hot chocolate and possibly traditional music.
“It’s kind of nice to think about all these spirits are being invited to the same place at the same time,” said Read. “It’s kind of nice that we’re all just throwing a big party for them, to honor them.”
For those looking to create something special for their altar offering, Scruggs will host a two-day tin plaques workshop Oct. 29-30 for $120. Scruggs’ work can be seen on the far side of the altar and shows two tin skeletons among tin flowers on a black background.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at email@example.com.