A community based art project developed by Felice Salmon, Youth Altar of Remembrance dealt with being a young person who has experienced loss and the art of remembrance.
Mexican culture provides an immensely beautiful understanding of the connections
between family that span life and death. In the celebration of El Día de los Muertos, family members are given an opportunity to connect with their ancestors through the creation of an altar of remembrance. This practice emphasizes the fact that, though a loved one may no longer be walking alongside us, it is possible to keep them in our hearts and create space for their memory by decorating the area around their gravesite.
Each year, our neighborhood is host to an amazing rebirth of the celebration of El Día de los Muertos. Though migration has separated many people from the gravesites of their loved ones, there is an Episcopal Burying Ground on Third Street that serves as host to many altars of remembrance.
I conducted a discussion on loss with a small group of kids at the local community center. Many of them had experienced the death of a pet or a grandparent. Some of them had even been expectantly awaiting the arrival of younger sibling only to become aware of their mother’s miscarriage. Every so often, young people bump up against the reality of life’s end. This is the space in which grownups have a chance to meet kids questions and curiosity with a gentle understanding of remembrance.
Although I don’t know the answers to many of the questions folks have about death or the afterlife, I do know that it is hard to lose someone. It is also hard to hold on to the importance of life when we lose someone unexpectedly or tragically. Remembering someone is one of the ways we can cope with the difficulty of having to say goodbye to him or her.
So, we created portraits of those to whom we had to say goodbye and wrote about the things they liked. We assembled colorful blocks, books, and skeletons as a way to play with the idea of death while affirming life. And, once we had completed our altar of remembrance, we sat there a while and took pictures as a way of remembering that gorgeous day.
In collaboration with Jenae Legg, The Living Arts & Science Center, & The East Seventh Street Community Center.