Crossroads Arts District kicks off Dia de los Muertos celebration

About 1,000 people gathered in the Crossroads Arts District to kick off the 19th annual Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration, which was hosted by The Mattie Rhodes Art Center on Friday.

The Mattie Rhodes Art Center prides itself in maintaining an authentic Latin culture in the heart of Kansas City for years, and is said to be a hidden jewel by many. Community members from all over the Kansas City area attended to support various artworks, showcase their own personal works or simply to have a good time in celebration of the holiday.

This kick-off to the Day of the Dead provides a journey through time and culture for families of all ages and backgrounds.

The event consisted of some 50 plus pieces of art including sugar skulls, shrines, paintings and more. The Art Center provided traditional Latin food and drinks in exchange for small donations, as well as music and dance. Exhibit-goers were also able to purchase various souvenirs such as t-shirts, ornaments, keychains and miniature skulls.

“I’ve been coming to this event for about 15 years, it’s always been one of my favorite events that happens in the fall,” said Ashlee Fairchild-Jones, a shrine artist of the night. “It was here before First Fridays, and before everything took off in the Arts District. It’s something beautiful about seeing people honor death in this way.”

This was Fairchild-Jones’s first exhibit in Mattie Rhodes. She said she always wanted to see her own work featured in this event. Her work is a dedication to her late father as well as her ancestral line.

“It’s part of our culture, we always come,” said Missy Chapman, a festival-goer. Chapman was surprised by her sister-in-law, Alexis Medina, who brought an alter to honor their late father-in-law.

“I’ve been working on the alter for about a month,” said Medina. “I included a lot of traditional black bows, which you don’t really see anymore, handmade sugar skulls and handmade flowers and a lot of catholic symbolism.”

John Fierro, CEO and President of the Mattie Rhodes Art Center, enjoys bringing different cultural communities together while hosting this event.

“It’s a reminder of what made our loved ones special and made them unique. Day of the Dead provides an opportunity for people to celebrate people’s lives throughout the year,” Fierro said. “Everybody shares in the reality that at some point, people die and for us to bring attention to those people in describing their character and personality. I think it’s an opportunity to really unite folks.”

The Mattie Rhodes center hosts various events throughout the year in honor of The Day of the Dead. These events can be found on the Mattie Rhodes Art Center webpage at



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