Virtual art exhibit honors Dia de Los Muertos

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Jayasimha Nuggehalli

Jayasimha Nuggehalli is an amateur photographer, eager to share the vibrant memories of last year’s celebration to those stuck at home. “I took a chance and applied to the exhibit,” Nuggehalli said. “I sent three pictures and they decided to feature my picture into the show.”

Art is one of the main pillars of expression; whether it’s self-expression, cultural expression, or emotional expression, it allows people of all different backgrounds to display their imagination and views, no matter how abstract. 

One holiday particularly tied to cultural expression through visuals is the Day of the Dead, also known as Dia de Los Muertos, honored virtually this year. The South San Francisco Parks and Recreation Department have created a virtual gallery dedicated to Dia de Los Muertos, giving visitors a chance to learn and appreciate the cultural importance. Although many are used to this two-year tradition being in-person, they have found a way to showcase the artists’ hard work online, rather than canceling the event entirely.

The South San Francisco Cultural Arts Commission Day of the Dead art exhibit allowed aspiring artists to submit their work for free, for all to see. Art fanatics can view the Padlet from Oct. 26 to Nov. 22, providing a large window to visit the exhibit and admire art from all different artists spotlighting Dia de Los Muertos. The show is divided into three separate categories, 2D art(A), 2D art(B), and 3D art, while labeling finalists from each category. 

Day of the Dead in South America by Lucy Lopshire

The variety of artistic representation spotlights that all different art methods can depict the same central theme. Jayasimha Nuggehalli, an amateur photographer, portrayed the holiday’s uplifting spirits with vibrant photos. He prefers candid photography to capture a variety of emotions during celebrations. 

He decided to enter the online exhibit using photos focusing on a Dia de Los Muertos face painter from a celebration last year.

“Any event where people dress up, come with different costumes, with face painting, makes a great subject for photography,” Nuggehalli said. “With photography, I’m also learning about different cultures and how to celebrate.”

The focus on celebrating and learning about cultures was why the Cultural Arts Commission decided to continue the tradition despite the virtual limitations of this year’s event. Ercie Santos, a cultural arts specialist for the city of South San Francisco, explained the behind the scenes of putting on the virtual exhibit.

“Day of the Dead, the in-person exhibit, was done for the first time two years ago in 2018, so it does have a little history,” Santos said. “In August, our commission decided that we would explore a virtual art gallery event.”

With little options as to how they would pursue the online exhibit, Santos and her commission chose to display the works on Padlet. They contacted artists they worked with in the past and advertised for people all around San Francisco and the Bay Area to get involved.

“We received 39 entries in total, equivalent to what we had received in person in 2018,” Santos said. “We had responses from past artists as well as new ones, so overall for the very first online show; it was a success.”

Thanks to the hard work of city workers like Santos, exhibitors such as Nuggehalli were able to exhibit their work despite the virtual setting and share their enthusiasm for the exciting holiday, rich with stimulating art and deep cultural traditions. 

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