As many of you know, today is the Day of the Dead. It is a joyous holiday celebrated in Mexico and in other cultures of the world. Though its celebration differs from culture to culture and region to region, it is a time to remember family and friends who have passed.
For the last six years, the Living Arts and Science Center has been promoting cultural understanding and awareness on the East End by hosting their annual Festival del Dia de los Muertos. The festival brings together people from all walks of life and backgrounds and it uses two of Lexington’s historic places, the Kinkead House and the Old Episcopal Burying Ground.
The Kinkead House is the site of most many of the LASC’s Day of the Dead festivities. It was built in 1847 for George B. Kinkead (Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln’s attorney) and his wife in the Greek Revival style. Sometime after 1853 Italianate elements were added following the style of the time.
The LASC has called the Kinkead House home since 1970. After 11 years of leasing the property, the Kinkead Family donated the house and 1.5 acres to the LASC to further their mission to “provide creative and unique opportunities for exploration and education in the arts and sciences.” The Kinkead House currently serves as offices, class room space, and gallery space where over 400 classes, workshops, and programs are made available to children and adults throughout the year. (Check out the Kaintuckeean’s post on the LASC’s exciting plans for the Kinkead House).
During the Festival del Dia de los Muertos, the gallery spaces are filled with Day of the Dead themed art from local artists and school children and the class rooms are used for crafting sugar skulls, papel picado (paper cutting), and tin ornaments. Outside, traditional Mexican musicians and dancers perform and local restaurants sell delicious traditional treats.
At dusk, a candlelit parade of festival-goers snakes its way down Campsie Place, a short street lined with Victorians, to the back entrance of the Old Episcopal Burying Ground. The OEBG is only open to the public one day a year – the Day of the Dead (though private viewings can be arranged – like this one for the BGT deTour Program). For the festival, the cemetery is transformed by local artists and community members who create traditional alters on the graves of Lexington’s former denizens. When the cemetery was established in 1849, I’m sure no one could have predicted the colorful and exuberant remembrances that would take place here 160 years later!
The Living Arts and Science Center’s Day of the Dead celebration brings together Lexington’s history and the changing face of its community. Young or old, from one cultural background or another, the festival is fun, educational, tasty and brings everyone together. Using Lexington’s cultural resources for the celebration grounds the ever-evolving community firmly in its past. And by using these resources so effectively, the LASC maintains their relevance to the community, which in turn encourages their preservation for future generations to enjoy.
Happy Day of the Dead, ya’ll!