Ceramics by Michelle Houk
Ceramics by Michelle Houk (Courtesy of Studio 116)

FARMINGTON — When driving through Tucson or El Paso this time of year, it isn't uncommon for people to see crosses alongside the road turned into shrines, Flo Trujillo of Farmington Public Library said.

Those shrines, in some cases, are part of a cultural framework for dealing with death and loss.

A downtown Farmington art festival will focus on Dia De Los Muertos, a celebration of relatives and friends who have died that is observed in Mexico and other areas of the world. Objects associated with the celebration include skulls and skeletons. The festival is put on by Studio 116 and the Northwest New Mexico Arts Council.

Trujillo said the library will be demonstrating how to make sugar skulls and will provide kits for people to take home if they want to make them at home.

Trujillo said while Dia De Los Muertos has been popular in southern New Mexico, Arizona and Texas, it is just now gaining popularity in the Farmington area.

Trujillo said Dia De Los Muertos isn't about being scary, nor is it another "Halloween" celebration.

"It doesn't have to be morbid or anything like that," she said.

Instead, Dia De Los Muertos is a "celebration of the ones who have passed on."

Karen Ellsbury, the owner of Studio 116, has tried her hand at some Dia De Los Muertos skulls.

"My skulls are less than traditional," Ellsbury said.

She said one of her skulls is a fluorescent cow skull.

"I call it my cow dragon," she said.

Ellsbury got the idea for the Dia De Los Muertos celebration from ceramic artist Michelle Houk, an artist who displayed at Studio 116 a few months ago. Houk showed Ellsbury pictures of some skulls she had created and sold.

Ellsbury said she thought it would be a great celebration and, with Dia De Los Muertos falling on a Friday, it was an ideal time for people to come downtown and celebrate.

"I'm hoping that it will grow to become a really fun event downtown every year," she said.

"Lady in Red" by Tabatha Rhodes
"Lady in Red" by Tabatha Rhodes (Courtesy of Studio 116)

She said one of the reasons she is hosting the celebration is in order to celebrate the local Hispanic population.

"We actually often forget about our Hispanic culture here," she said.

IF YOU GO

What: Dia De Los Muertos

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Friday

Where: Studio 116, 116 W. Main in Farmington

More info: 505-801-5889

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and hgrover@daily-times.com. Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.