Wilkes-Barre’s Wyoming Valley Art League hosts Day of the Dead celebration
WILKES-BARRE — Wyoming Valley Art League’s Day of the Dead celebration recognizes the centuries-old holiday, but the event was inspired by an older tradition — death.
Day of the Dead is celebrated on Nov. 1 and 2 usually in central and southern American countries as well as a few European countries. The belief is that on these days, the gates of heaven are opened and the spirits of loved ones can reunite with their families on earth. Traditionally, on Nov. 2, celebrations are held at cemeteries where living family members clean tombs and spend time at the grave sites of their loved ones. WVAL’s 130 S. Franklin St., headquarters will host a local celebration, organized by WVAL member Elaine Walton and Langcliffe Presbyterian Church Pastor Alex Becker. An art show, speakers, poets, and Day of the Dead traditions including the ofrenda, where items can be left to honor the dead are just some of the activities. The TEDTalk that inspired the event, Candy Chang’s “Before I Die I Want To …,” will be screened.
“She put up a big chalk board and wrote on it ‘Before I die I want to,’ and had people fill in the blank,” Becker said. “We were captivated by the idea and by the benefits of talking about death. We realized that there’s no forum for people to really talk about death when it’s not very raw and happening in the moment.”
Those conversations include dying wishes — what we want to happen to our remains when we pass. Walton said the topic is important to educate others about.
“In 2012 I lost my 17-year-old daughter unexpectedly and I was really thankful that my daughter and I had talked about what she wanted when she passed away, ” Walton said. “Little did I know, less than a year later I’d be implementing her wishes.”
Walton, is organizing the art and poetry portion. She said art is a way for people to express themselves without words, especially when it comes to complicated matters such as death.
“Art is visual, so words aren’t necessary,” Walton said. “Art conveys so many different things in so many different ways — it’s up to person doing it to make own decision about what it is they’re seeing. The same thing is approximately true with poetry, sometimes there’s double meaning, people can have different interpretations of the same thing. I think poetry is meant to be heard. I think at the end of the day we all want to be heard.”
Becker organized the events’ speakers which will include talks about living a good life and preparing for a good death, financial preparedness and Rodrigo Gereda, former director of Wilkes-Barre’s Interfaith Resource Center for Peace and Justice, will give a historical perspective on Day of the Dead celebrations.
Reach Gene Axton at 570-991-6121 or on Twitter @TLArts
IF YOU GO
What: Wyoming Valley Art League’s two-day Day of the Dead celebration
When: Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: WVAL headquarters, 130 S. Franklin St., Wilkes-Barre