Last Tuesday, Nov. 1, Living Arts hosted their annual Day of the Dead arts festival. Day of the Dead, or Día de Los Muertos, is a Mexican tradition focused on praying for and remembering deceased friends and family and supporting them on their spiritual journey. The Living Arts festival honors this tradition with live entertainment, food, crafts and Hispanic culture, all in a fun and welcoming environment. It’s an event that invites everyone to explore Hispanic heritage and honor the deceased.
Upon walking in, I noticed many people in elaborate sugar skull face paint listening to live music and enjoying various Hispanic foods like tacos and empanadas. It was a large crowd spanning all ages and races. Many attendees flocked to the altars of lost loved ones inside the Living Arts building. The altars lined the walls with large pictures of the individual who passed away. They were accompanied with small artifacts to remember the person by: clothing, favorite foods, movies, art, etc. All the altars were beautifully and thoughtfully designed and exemplified the personality of the deceased individual. They were extremely diverse and showed people from all walks of life in all situations that had passed away. One unique altar was set up to acknowledge the lives lost to suicide, and asking individuals who needed help to reach out.
Inside the building there was also face painting, hispanic food and a tortilla oracle who would read people’s fortunes based on tortilla cooking patterns, similar to tea reading or palm reading.
Live music accompanied various craft tables and food stands outside the building. TU music major Josh Westbrook performed with his salsa band Tulsa Latin Style. They played to a huge crowd, with many couples of all ages pairing off and dancing in front of the stage. The excitement for the music was almost infectious and the crowd was in great spirits. Westbrook said that it was “incredible to have a chance to celebrate the holiday with such authenticity in a place like Tulsa,”.
Craft tables with jewelry, knick knacks, candles and other things were spread across the back side of the building. Food trucks lined the street outside, and while the lines were very long, it was well worth the wait for the authentic Hispanic cuisine. Many people were taking pictures outside along the beautifully painted murals of the Living Arts building.
Overall, the Living Arts Day of the Dead festival was a great event that was beautifully done. The environment was crowded and slightly hectic, but it helped add to the excitement of the day. It felt more like a party than a sad event, as many who have not attended may assume. It was a celebration of death, life and Hispanic Heritage in the middle of downtown Tulsa.