Teens honor Day of the Dead at the MIA

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Olga Guzmán checks out her ofrenda hanging at the MIA

Photo by Amanda Hankerson

Last night the Minneapolis Institute of Arts was filled with Latino-American families, there to see and celebrate the artwork of their children. The first floor gallery area and nearby social room was overflowing with little kids working on art projects, girlfriends and boyfriends chowing down on pork and chicken tamales, and parents taking pictures of their children next to their “ofrendas” or offerings, made in honor of Day of the Dead.

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Olga’s ofrenda. Photo by Dan Dennehy

Olga Guzmán hasn’t lost anyone close to her, so she made a more traditional ofrenda,

depicting skeletons dancing, singing and sharing a meal. This is her second year making an ofrenda at the MIA, and she really likes it.

“I’m really busy – working, going to school, writing papers – and I don’t get a chance to be creative with art. So I really love when a chance like this comes along because I feel my creative side can come out.”

All of the ofrendas were created in crates, used to symbolize the migrant workers who came to the United States looking to support their families.

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José Miguel Guerrero stands next to his ofrenda.

Photo by Amanda Hankerson

The teens are all students of El Colegio magnet school in Minneapolis. As part of the process, they were given video cameras (provided by Best Buy) with which to document their projects, and talk about their work. Administrative Director David Greenberg says he’s thrilled with the project and what it offers his students.

It’s really a good deal for our students to see their work in one of the most important museums in the region, to know that their work, thoughts and experiences are valued and important. To just see them do those video blogs, and talk into the camera about their work and their lives, knowing that people are going to see that and care about it and respond to it…it just makes them reflect on who they are and know themselves better.

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Tameka Boyce at the MIA reception with her parents.

Photo by Amanda Hankerson

18-year old Tameka Boyce chose to use her ofrenda to honor her grandmother, who died in 2004. The crate is filled with pink, her grandmother’s favorite color, a poem she wrote and candles with the names of different family members. Boyce says she learned a lot, both about art and about video, in the process.

“It’s great! It’s surprising that my artwork’s in the MIA. I can brag about it, it’s very cool, my family’s very interested and proud of me and so I like it.”

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Domini Guzmán with his ofrenda. Photo by Amanda Hankerson

MIA curator Joe Horse Capture organized the Young People’s Ofrenda exhibition and he thinks the project has managed to accomplish a lot for everyone involved.

This is a type of artwork that normally our audience doesn’t see. And so I think it’s important, because we’re an encyclopedic museum, for them to be exposed to that. Also this [Latino] community is really important to our larger community – and we’d like to see more of them here at the museum.

These small ofrendas are very powerful. You know this project has been successful when a parent comes to you and shakes your hand with tears in their eyes thanking you for creating this opportunity for their child because it has meant so much to them.

Young People’s Ofrenda runs through November 15 at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

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