DOWNEY – The 5th annual Downey Dia de Los Muertos Art Festival, scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 29, in and around the Downey Theatre, is again presenting “Urban Art Alley,” a favorite with the 20,000 expected attendees who savor the abundant art, dance, film, music, food, shopping, and crafts, most of it themed to Day of the Dead.
Festival attendance and parking are free; hours are 11 am -8 pm.
This year, “Urban Art Alley” features two works by Martin Sanchez, who has exhibited at the Festival for the past four years; his whimsical, oversized sculptures are event highlights. On display will be a 22’ high “Skeleton on a Bicycle” which has been exhibited at the Riverside Art Museum, and a new work he’s crafting for the Downey event.
Originally from Michoacán, Mexico, Sanchez has integrated Southern California culture into his work, creating art out of the castaways of urban life, repurposing items that range from bottle caps to rusted bicycle wheels to seashells. Despite the rough raw materials, Sanchez’s work is light and charming.
New to Urban Art Alley this year is the “Parade of Catrinas.” Catrinas are familiar icons of Day of the Dead: lady skeletons in fancy dresses and elaborate hats. Designed by Ricardo Soltero, the “Parade” of larger than life, 10’ tall, one-of-a-kind catrinas dazzle with colorful dresses and wild hats.
Soltero, a native of Nayarit, Mexico, began his artistic life at five-years old, helping his grandmother make paper flower wreaths to sell and decorate for their local Day of the Dead celebration.
While still in his teens, Solteros’s family relocated to Baja Mexico where Roberto enrolled at the Casa de la Cultura, broadening his studies to include, dance, singing, painting, and theater, where he acted, and created sets and scenery.
Using paper mache, recyclable materials, wood and Styrofoam, Soltero’s works have been displayed at Hollywood Forever Day of Dead, The Autry Museum, Denver Botanical Gardens and more. His work has also been shown in New York, Chicago and Mexico City.
Additional “Urban Art” exhibits include “car altars” -- traditional altars displayed in the trunk or roof or inside an automobile. “Trunk altars,” have been displayed in San Antonio, San Diego, and Los Angeles, where the altar is often combined with a classic or vintage auto.
Other festival attractions include continuous performances in the 738-seat theater by the region’s top ballet folklorico troupes. Films include a free showing of “Book of Life”; traditional altars and luminarias will be on display in the patio and foyer of the main Downey Library, which is included in the festival footprint.
Outside, the garden-like zocalo offers live romantica and bolero music, and in the patio, hands- on arts and crafts with master artisan demonstrations and guidance.
The theatre back lot houses food trucks with a variety of cuisines; almost 50 vendors sell Day of the Dead-related art and merchandise.
The annual festival is a production of the City of Downey and the Downey Theatre, and is a reflection of their commitment to the traditions and art that reflect the Southland’s Mexican/Latin roots.