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A little skeleton music

on November 1, 2009

What do Halloween and the Latino holiday Day of the Dead have in common? The Richmond Art Center’s On-Site Education Director, Kato Jaworski, said she pondered this question as she tried to come up with a theme for a holiday event at the center.

She didn’t want to focus on either holiday too closely; her hope was to “bring people of different cultures together, and gauge their response.”

Only two days apart, both holidays have to do with remembering the souls of dead. However, the way they are celebrated is very different. Halloween focuses on the more supernatural aspects of death, while the Day of Dead honors loved ones that have passed away.

Jaworski decided that skeletons form a unifying, recognizable link between the two festivals. The center’s first Skeleton Fest was held on Saturday. Families brought their children to create masks and make clay skeletons together, just hours before trick-or-treating began.

About 60 people – “not all of them regulars,” said Jaworski – took part in the free workshops the center offered.

Alex Santana, a recently transplanted New Yorker, came by herself.

“I just love art,” she said, talking about her decision to go back to art school at the age of 45. She had just created what she called her “I just got up” mask.

At noon, children gathered to watch a bone-rattling presentation by author Bob Barner.

Children's author, Bob Barner, was invited to present his book, Dem Bones.

Children's author, Bob Barner, was invited to present his book, Dem Bones.

“I consider myself a really interesting teacher,” he said to Richmond Confidential. He brought his dancing skeletons to life while reading from his book, Dem Bones. Barner said he loves to mix music, art and science in his work.

Dem Bones gives facts about the human bone structure to the tune of a traditional folk song sung by a guitar-playing skeleton.

In a different room, Lauren Ari held the Recycled Mask workshop. Sporting a mask made from an egg crate and wearing an iridescent blue robe, the center’s ceramics teacher showed kids how to make art out of anything. Kids used glue guns to attach hair curlers, pipe cleaners, plastic grid and cloth to cardboard.

Nine-year-old Eziah Napitan said that he would wear his creation, something resembling a cross between a gorilla and a tiger, while trick-or-treating tonight. He is a regular at the center, and his mother, Alisha, encourages his artistic endeavors. Possibly influenced by Dem Bones, he told Richmond Confidential that when he grows up he wants to be “a scientist and an artist. Oh, and a guitar player.”

Jaworski was pleased by the success of Skeleton Fest, and is already thinking about next year. She is looking into ways on how to expand the festival.

“We have a lot of room to grow,” she said as children between the ages of two and 10 marched around the center’s courtyard, proudly holding their new masks to their faces.

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