Milwaukee Art Museum Celebrating Day of the Dead Virtually: Crafts, Stories, and More

By Hayley Crandall

The year is almost over and we’re in the homestretch, which means festivities for all the holidays and celebrations are soon to be in full swing.

The Milwaukee Art Museum is kicking off its observance of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, with themed crafts, story time and other educational activities for families starting Sunday, Oct. 18.

The activities, part of Kohl’s Family Sundays, will be uploaded online via videos by the museum, allowing for families to work at their own pace and focus on what interests them, explained Emily Sullivan, director of Youth and Family Programs.

Crafts include a DIY mini ofrenda, a papel picado print, a corn husk marigold and a papier maché skeleton. Tutorials for the crafts were created by local Mexican artists whom were given a lot of control over what to pick.

“Really we asked the artists to take the lead since they have the specialized knowledge in this area,” Sullivan said. “These are all artists that have personal experience and Day of the Dead is part of their culture, so we felt that authenticity was important.”

Templates and inspiration from the guest artists will be available to download to aide with the crafts, Sullivan added.

The museum aimed to make the required items for the crafts readily available, Sullivan explained. Supplies ranges from colored pencils to newspapers to corn husks. A full list can be found at the Milwaukee Art Museum’s website.

“We wanted the projects to be accessible to all,” Sullivan said.

Other events featured include a bilingual (Spanish and English) story time from the Milwaukee Public Library, a virtual tour of Mexican and Mexican American artists and a virtual display of local students completed ofrendas.

“While we wish we could be in-person,” said Sullivan. “This event is still special.”

Not much has changed with intended planned festivities, explained Sullivan. They really focused on being able to share these events with people and were excited to experiment with the new format.

“I think for the education team it’s been a way to learn new tools, new skills and explore creativity,” said Sullivan.

The team has even begun discussing keeping this virtual video format after the pandemic. They find it to be a wonderful opportunity to reach people and connect with them anywhere, said Sullivan. The museum hopes to “make new friends” through the format and thinks this could be a sort of introduction.

“One great thing about videos is you can watch them wherever you are, really on any kind of device,” Sullivan said. “You don’t have to live in Milwaukee to take part, you can live anywhere in the world.”

The ultimate goal, though, is to hopefully teach families something new and open them to exploring other cultures and art.

“We’re hoping to create an appreciation for artists that are in our community,” said Sullivan. “And get people excited about exploring art as well as making new ideas together as a family.”

The Milwaukee Art Museum is currently open to the public with COVID-19 guidelines in place, including masks and distancing. Events have been shifted to the virtual format.

They are encouraging people to pre-book tickets if planning to visit.

All information and supply list for Kohl’s Family Sundays is available at the Milwaukee Art Museum website, mam.org.

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