Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday December 18th 2018


Creative Remembering

By Hana Frenette

On Nov. 1 and 3, Rachael Pongetti, the Pensacola Graffiti Bridge Project, Art Beyond Walls, and First City Art Center, will collaborate for the second year in a row to create a special two-night Day of the Dead themed festival. The festival includes an  interactive community-created memorial wall in conjunction with Foo Foo Fest.

The idea for the festival and memorial wall originated from Pongetti, a photographer and teacher, after she photographed the 17th Avenue graffiti bridge trellis daily, for several years. Alongside the colorful graffiti, high school shout outs, and political opinions, she observed dozens of memorials in honor of lost loved ones.

“In our culture, people often have a hard time dealing with death,” said Pongetti, artistic director of the upcoming Day of the Dead celebration. “We tend to repress it, and there’s not a lot of ritual beyond the funeral to remember our loved ones.”

“The public is invited to bring a portrait of someone they’re connected with who has departed—that can be a loved one, a famous person, or even a pet—to paste on the memorial wall,” Pongetti said.

Members of the Art Beyond Walls organization will help participants paste their images onto the side of the First City Art Center building facing Gonzalez Street, creating a community mural of collaged portraits.

Participants should bring laser printed images because the mural will stay up in the community for several months. Laser printed images do not bleed over time like ink-jet printed pictures often do, Pongetti explained, and will help to preserve the mural.

The response from last year’s interactive mural event was so positive, the collaborating groups decided to expand on the activities this year  and will offer live music from New Orleans band, Sweet Crude, face painting, an altar-art exhibit, a second-line procession, poetry readings, and live story recordings.

“Last year’s Day of the Dead Community Memorial was the most meaningful event that I have ever attended,” said Pongetti. “Everyone I’ve spoken to who came last year said they were just so touched by it. You just really feel connected to the community at this event.”

Pongetti also noted participants would be encouraged to draw around the photos on the wall this year.

“After last year, we realized people were wanting to write on the pictures, and were adding the names or the year they were born,” she said.

Plenty of markers and paint pens will be made available for participants to add inscriptions, messages, or titles to the wall or the small memorial rock garden.

“It’s a very rewarding experience, knowing that you’re creating something to honor that person. It really feels good and it’s not a sad time, because there is so much joy there too,” Pongetti said.

The second day of the celebration will feature temporary altar installations and tabletop shrines in various outdoor areas of the festival grounds as part of an exhibit titled, Altars of Love, said Suzanne Findeisen, youth art director for First City Art Center.

“They can be larger in scale, there’s no size restrictions,” Findeisen said. “We really think it could be any piece of art, as long as it’s dedicated to someone you love or memorializing them in some way.”

Toward the end of the second night and the conclusion of the celebration, Poet Laureate of Northwest Florida Jamey Jones will read a few selected works as part of a loosely structured closing service.

“We’ll have seating for the readings, and for people to sit and observe while others add portraits to the wall, or to sit and listen to someone tell a story about their loved one,” Findeisen said.  “We’re just trying to inspire the community with different ways to remember and think of the great times while memorializing those who’ve passed on in a positive and happy way.”

WHAT: The public is invited to watch Art Beyond Walls members paint the mural at the First City Art Center’s building
WHEN: 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29-12 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 30
WHERE: First City Art Center, 1060 N. Guillemard St.
COST: Free

WHAT: Members of Art Beyond Walls will assist the community in wheatpasting a paper laser print image of a departed loved one or pet onto the memorial wall
WHEN: 4-7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 1
WHERE: First City Art Center, 1060 N. Guillemard St.
COST: Free

WHAT: An evening celebrating the traditionally Mexican holiday through live music, art, altars, food, hot glass exhibitions and more
WHEN: 5:30-10 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 3
WHERE: First City Art Center, 1060 N. Guillemard St.
COST: $10, $5 for children 18 and under

Celebration Schedule:
Second Line Procession: Begins at 6:30 p.m.
Route to follow: Beginning at First City Art Center, E. DeSoto St. along Palafox St., to Gonzalez St. Mural and back
Participants are encouraged to wear bright colors or Day of Dead attire and carry a photo or a memory token of a loved one.
Post Procession: Music by Alexis and the Samurai (7p.m.–7:45 p.m.) and Sweet Crude (8:15 p.m.–10 p.m.)