Self Help Graphics, a nationally recognized center for Latino arts that develops and nurtures artists in printmaking in East Los Angeles, has had a long tradition of involving the community in its Day of the Dead celebrations. Unfortunately, this might be the last event of its kind. See excerpt below from a recent LA Times article. If you have to miss this weekend’s events, you can catch the upcoming long-month altar exhibit “A Call to Witness: All is Not Forgotten” from November 2nd through the29th.

SELF-HELP GRAPHICS GETS READY FOR DAY OF THE DEAD by Agustin Gurza (excerpts)

“When last we left our embattled arts activists at Self Help Graphics, they were on the verge of eviction from their longtime headquarters in East L.A. Even some true believers were ready to count out the struggling community-based institution that has been a beacon for Chicano art for almost four decades…

The agency’s ultimate location remains in doubt but not its mission. This week, Self Help seemed as vital as ever as volunteers prepared for the folk holiday it helped popularize in Southern California 35 years ago with its first All Souls Day festival. Appropriately, it’s still finding meaning in a Mexican ritual that celebrates death as a transition, not an ending…

Signs of life abounded at its landmark location on César Chávez Avenue. Baroquely festooned altars were being installed in the gallery. Those big papier-mâché heads were waiting to be painted for the procession. And a new generation of volunteers rallied to carry on the work, led by newly installed board President Stephen Saiz, a Disney executive who sports cool sunglasses and Apache hoops in his ears.

“There’s really a sense of community and family with what’s going on at Self Help,” says Saiz. “People want to see the agency flourish.”

In the Day of the Dead tradition, people create altars to departed loved ones, with photos and meaningful objects, even their favorite food. The idea is that the living can still commune with the dead. This year, four families from the community have been invited to join veteran artist Alma Lopez and others creating altars/installations for the month long exhibition, curated by Reina Prado and titled “A Call to Witness: All Is Not Forgotten.”

Organizers expect the event to rival those from the ’70s, fueled by the possibility that this may be the last at this location. The festivities begin at 7 p.m. Nov. 1, with the creation of the community altar led by artist Ofelia Esparza. The following day, the procession will feature kids with painted faces, mariachis performing favorite songs of the dead and people carrying “altars on a stick.” LA Times

Click here for a full schedule of this weekend’s events at Self Help Grahics, click here for the full L.A. Times Article and click here to read my LA Taco interview with East LA artist Rosanna Esparaza, daughter of altar maker Ofelia Esparza, and learn more about her family’s long-time involvement with Day of the Dead preparations. This year Rosanna shared that her family’s “altar is dedicated to all the businesses that were established in East L.A.  during the time my mother was growing up. Many business owners were Russian, Jewish, German and French.  They spoke spanish to their Mexican patrons and extended credit to them.  Very interesting neighborhood.”

Well, let’s check it out!

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