21Country: Day of the Dead altars

21Alive News at 5
Published: Oct. 19, 2023 at 8:32 AM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - The Fort Wayne Museum of Art offers a year-round glimpse of the art world, past and present.

At this time of year, it also offers a life lesson about death.

Art museums serve the living, but these altars celebrate the dead, not for being dead, but for who they were in life. They are a part of the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ celebration when Hispanic families remember and honor loved ones who’ve passed away, sharing their stories with younger generations.

The altar was erected by Francisca Hernandez Navarro’s family, who were migrant farm workers in Michigan. She loved to cook and can vegetables. She saved paper shopping bags for future use and never forgot a birthday. ‘we love you,’ wrote her family. ‘may you guide and protect us from above.’

This altar honors local artists who’ve left us: Nancy Lutz, who was a gifted painter. Nearby is a portrait of her friend George McCulloch.

Gregg Coffey, who died earlier this year, grew up in Kendallville. This is one of Coffey’s beautiful prints. ‘Day of the Dead’, or ‘Dia de los Muertos,’ was born in a culture that values family, past and present, and faith.

It’s a beautiful custom from south of the border, and since we Americans are a nation of immigrants from many countries and many cultures, ‘Day of the Dead’ is now an American tradition, too.

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