The Young People’s Ofrendas project began in 2008 as a partnership between the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and El Colegio High School in Minneapolis, through which ofrendas are created by students and exhibited at the museum. Since then, the project has grown to involve additional partner schools. The 2013 Young People’s Ofrendas partners are Austin High School (Greater Minnesota), El Colegio High School (Minneapolis), and Humboldt Secondary School (St. Paul).
Based on a curriculum co-developed by the MIA and El Colegio, students explore world cultures’ reverence for ancestors in art and Day of the Dead traditions in Mexico in the classroom and the museum. They draw inspiration from these and other experiences to create personal ofrendas (offerings) – altars or shrines to honor friends, family, or community members who have passed away.
Each ofrenda reflects the student’s own experience. In inviting students from diverse communities to learn about and create their own ofrendas, we acknowledge that the Day of the Dead is a very personal, spiritual tradition. It is important to us that we not ask students to imitate or make Mexican ofrendas. Rather, we envision students paying tribute to this rich cultural tradition by creating their own personal and contemporary ofrendas—in the spirit of the Mexican tradition. Students create their ofrendas inside of wooden fruit crates, which is not a conventional way of creating ofrendas. However, the project’s originators selected this format as a symbol of the agricultural work performed by many of Minnesota’s Latino migrant populations. The crates also facilitate transporting and exhibiting the student artwork at the museum.
This project Web site and blog follows the students’ progress in creating their ofrendas. Here we present the videos they have made, in which they relate their perspectives and insights as they honor their ancestors. Interact with the project online here and on Twitter (@artsmia_ofrenda) as it unfolds in the classroom beginning in early September. A selection of student ofrendas from each school is on view in the Community Commons gallery at the museum October 22 through November 24, 2013.