Celebrate the 37th Annual Día de los Muertos Celebration at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

Celebrate the 37th Annual Día de los Muertos Celebration


EUGENE, Ore. -- (October 15, 2018) – This year’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration returns to the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art on the University of Oregon campus on Thursday, November 1 and Friday, November 2 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. each evening. The free celebrations are open to the community and feature dancing, poetry readings, live music, traditional Mexican ofrendas, ceramics, prints, and paintings by artists in Mexico, and art activities for all ages.


Each evening, P’urhembe, a group of six musicians and singers who play traditional indigenous and mestizo (European and native) music from the state of Michoacán, Mexico, will perform with dancers from Identidad y Folclor, based in Guanajuato, Mexico, for a lively cultural event.


Fifteen prints and paintings by artists based in Guanajuato, Mexico, will be on view. Their imagery is inspired by the Día de los Muertos tradition and two master paintings on view at the JSMA—Diego Rivera’s La ofrenda (The Offering) and Rufino Tamayo’s Perro aullando a la luna (Dog Howling at the Moon). These paintings are on loan to the JSMA for one year, from the collection of Art Bridges, a recently established nonprofit foundation dedicated to providing institutions across the U.S. access to outstanding works of American art.


Diego Rivera’s La ofrenda, presents Mexico’s annual Día de los Muertos celebration of life and death and Tamayo’s Perro aullando a la luna is an aching expression of necessity and despair, anguish and rage. Both works, exhibited publically in the United States during the first half of the twentieth century, bridge the powerfully enduring presence of Mexico’s ancient beliefs and art with the universal human condition.


Also on display are hand-built ceramics, inspired by pre-Hispanic cultural traditions, by Ernesto Guevara, from Guanajuato, Mexico. Guevara will lead a family-friendly sculptural art activity in the museum’s studio. 


In addition to the evening events, the JSMA’s galleries will be open from 6-8 p.m. so visitors can see the masterworks by Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo and many more exhibitions.


Constructed by the students of Oak Hills School and MEChA de UO, traditional Día de los Muertos ofrendas (also known as Day of the Dead altars), will be on display. The altar is a customary part of the holiday that is meant to honor and receive the souls of the departed.


”Día de los Muertos is a festive and thoughtful holiday in Mexico and some parts of Central and South America,” says Cheryl Hartup, JSMA associate curator of Latin American Art. “The unique tradition is celebrated by Latinxs and Chicanxs in the United States, and an ever-increasing general public.”


Thousands of years ago, in the valley of southern Mexico, Mayas, Zapotecas, Mixtecas, and Aztecas honored their dead with elaborate ceremonies, dances and rituals. After Cortez conquered Mexico in the 16th century and with the introduction of Catholicism, the religious celebrations of All Saints Day and All Souls Day coincided with the indigenous Mexican celebrations. The intersection of these celebrations has given way to the Día de los Muertos that we know today, which includes the tradition of altars with food, a glass of water, candles, flowers, papel picado (paper cut-outs), and photographs of the deceased alongside those of saints.


In Mexico, there are wide variances of this celebration between regions. However, traditionally on November 1, Día de los Muertos Chiquitos is observed to honor departed children. This evening is also sometimes referred to as la Noche de Duelo (The Night of Mourning) and is marked by a candlelight procession to the cemetery. On November 2, Día de los Muertos, the spirits of the dead are remembered, and families gather to visit the graves of their ancestors.


The day is passed cleaning and decorating the gravesites of the departed, and time is spent together as a family and as a community. Families bring the favorite foods and libations of their loved ones to the gravesites, along with a picnic lunch for themselves. Sugar skulls and toys are given to the children, which emphasize early on that death is an important part in the cycle of life. This is a happy celebration for families to remember the pleasant times shared with departed family members.


The Día de los Muertos celebration at the JSMA is co-sponsored by Oak Hill School in conjunction with the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, MEChA de UO (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanos de Aztlán), Adelante Sí, UO Latinx Strategy Group, Instituto Estatal de la Cultura de Guanajuato, and Instituto Estatal de Atención al Migrante Guanajuatense y sus familias.


About the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art

The University of Oregon's Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is a premier Pacific Northwest museum for exhibitions and collections of historic and contemporary art. The mission of the museum is to enhance the University of Oregon’s academic mission and to further the appreciation and enjoyment of the visual arts for the general public.  The JSMA features significant collections galleries devoted to art from China, Japan, Korea, Europe, and the Americas as well as changing special exhibition galleries.  The JSMA is one of seven museums—and the only academic art museum-- in Oregon accredited by the American Alliance of Museums.


The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is located on the University of Oregon campus at 1430 Johnson Lane. Museum hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesdays, and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for senior citizens. Free admission is given to ages 18 and under, JSMA members, college students with ID, and University of Oregon faculty, staff and students. For information, contact the JSMA, 541-346-3027.


Contact: Debbie Williamson Smith, 541-346-0942,


Links: Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art,