Garden City Arts gets grant for Dia de los Muertos event




A $10,000 grant received by Garden City Arts is expected to inject life into the organization's Second Annual Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, Arts and Culture Festival.

"The majority of funds will go to helping us bring in some performers," Laurie Chapman, executive director of the Garden City Arts, said. "We've got a couple of musicians we're looking to hire. That was the big struggle we had last year — wanting to bring in some bigger, non-local acts to draw more people to the event. We just didn't have the funds."

According to a press release from Chapman, the Kansas Creative Arts Industries Commission announced Thursday that Garden City Arts was one of 10 agencies to receive funding. The $10,000 grant, which requires matching funds, was one of only two that were awarded full funding from the commission.

Chapman said the funds will be used both for bringing in bigger acts and for marketing, which will not only encompass advertising through various media outlets, but also sending mailers to arts organizations across Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and eastern Colorado.

The Mariah Fund of Dodge City previously committed $2,500 in funding for the festival. Chapman said Garden City Arts is in the process of trying to secure additional matching funds.

"We're wanting to market and promote the event outside of southwest Kansas to Wichita, Pueblo (Colo.) and Amarillo (Texas) and try to make this a draw for the whole area," she said. "Without the grant monies from the state and the Mariah Fund, there's no way we would be able to do the advertising and promotions outside of Garden City."

Dia de Los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is a Mexican holiday in which Latino families honor and remember their loved ones.

"Deceased loved ones are remembered by their families by characterizing them and honoring who they were in a very lighthearted way," Chapman said. "It's not making light of the individual, but it's saying death isn't something to be feared."

Skeletons are used to create likenesses of deceased loved ones and placed in an ofrenda, the Spanish word for altar, in which Chapman said candles, special foods and art projects also are placed.

This year's event will include an exhibit of historical artifacts, a literary workshop for students, poetry reading, a homemade salsa contest, an art exhibition, dance performances and live music performed both by local and non-local acts.

The event is scheduled to take place over two days, Nov. 1 and 2, the official dates that the holiday is celebrated in Mexico. This will be another change from last year, when the event was held only on Oct. 26.

Sean Collins, president of Ad Astra Out West, a local production company handling the musical side of things, said they knew if they could make a good impression at last year's event that this year's event could get even better.

"We're really excited to make this a really great event for the community," Collins said. "This year, we're definitely expecting to provide a top notch Mariachi band and something else to sprinkle in some flavor."

The Mariachi band is from Pueblo, and the front man is Tony Ortiz.

"Tony Ortiz is in a duo that does a lot of performances, especially with children, in regards to Day of the Dead. He does historical storytelling, the history of the holiday and makes it come alive for someone who isn't familiar with the holiday or the tradition," Chapman said.

In addition to Ad Astra Out West, Garden City Arts is partnered with the Finney County Historical Society and the Latino Writers Collective of Kansas City for this year's event.

Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor to assist with the local match can call Chapman at (620) 260-9700.

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