Celebrating Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

All month-long Columbus Museum of Art will be celebrating Day of the Dead. We asked Leticia Vazquez-Smith of Latino Arts for Humanity to tell us more about the holiday and how she celebrates.

What is Day of Dead?
The celebration of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is one of the most sacred and revered days in the Mexican and Central American cycle of feasts. It stems from the ancient pre-Columbian belief that as long as one was remembered by family and friends, one continued to live. In celebrating the dead, they were kept alive. 

Why is Day of the Dead important?
It is very important to preserve the festivity that holds a great significant in the life of Mexico’s indigenous communities and that provides the opportunity to celebrate life and death as a duality allowing people to commemorate in a very special way the life of those who have departed.

How do you celebrate El dia de los muertos?
In my family we start the celebration days before by gathering Cempasuchitl flowers and arranging for the “ofrenda.” Preparing the portraits and deciding the menu to present to our friends and family. My mom and me will cook together and try the family recipes.  will set the offering with incense, water, candles, salt, flowers, will spread the petals on the floor and set the “papel picado.”  Once everything is in place, we will seat and eat.  Then the next day the visit to the “panteon” Cemetery. Once in the cemetery everybody will start cleaning and sometimes re-painting the graves, then the flowers and decorations are set. While everybody is getting ready there is an opportunity to talk to the once have passed away. We start the “copal” incense and play music.  Family and friends bring food and drinks.  It is a great time to enjoy family and memories, some will cry some will laugh.  Everybody will eat or drink.  I love to visit the cemeteries that are far from the city in small villages with my friends and enjoy the big party with traditional food and music!

For more on Columbus Museum of Art’s Day of the Dead programs visit the Events and Programs page.

Leticia Vazquez-Smith a cultural worker, researcher, craftswoman, and an avid promoter of Mexican traditions and culture in Columbus. She is also president of the Latino Arts for Humanity. Two of her specialties are “foodways” and “Day of the Dead celebration.” Since 1999 Leticia has presented bilingual community workshops about Day of the Dead. In 2005 she established an annual Day of the Day Community Event in Columbus, which this year takes place on October 20 at Greenlawn Cemetery. 



Can Anyone Lead for Inclusion?

Can Anyone Lead for Inclusion: Minday Galik and Alison Kennedy presenting at the 2018 OMA Conference


Can anyone lead for inclusion? That was the question CMA’s Manager for Public Safety and Gallery Experience Mindy Galik and I posed during our roundtable presentation and discussion at the annual Ohio Museums Association conference, which took place this year in Dayton from April 14-16. Museum professionals and students from all over the state came together to learn from each other, connect with colleagues in the field, and enjoy six Dayton museums through group exploration and behind-the-scenes tours.

Equitas Health Institute kicked off a preconference workshop on serving the LGBTQ community with cultural humility and structural competency, providing resources and starting great conversations between participants. Speaker Ramona Peele highlighted the importance of asking questions, continuing education, and remembering that there is always more to learn. 

Equitas Health’s presentation on serving the LGBTQ community was a great precursor to our session the following day: “Can Anyone Lead for Inclusion? Gender Inclusivity at the Columbus Museum of Art.” We shared lessons learned from the museum’s recent addition of gender pronouns to staff name badges and steered conversation amongst participants about how to create change in their own institutions. After telling our story of struggle, mistakes, and triumph, Mindy and I asked two questions of our audience: “Why do good ideas often die?” and “Who needs to be at the table?” Participants broke out into small groups, discussing their own challenges and writing down their ideas on post-it notes. The big takeaway: change happens slowly, but small efforts have large impacts.

Presenting a session brought the great things happening at CMA to the attention of the rest of the Ohio museum community and has inspired potential partnerships between professionals in the Columbus area. The Ohio Museums Association conference provides a lovely opportunity to build relationships between people and institutions in the state of Ohio.

Be sure to check out the winners of the annual OMA awards, which were given out during the conference. Special shout out to the Massillon Museum for their Blind Spot: A Matter of Perception exhibition and Ohio History Connection for their Community Partnership Award for “Bhutanese-Nepali Neighbors: Photographs by Tariq Tarey.”

– Alison Kennedy is Gallery Associate Team Captain, and Mindy Galik is Manager for Public Safety and Gallery Experience and an OMA Board Trustee.

Sharing Wonder

The Wonder Room is a one-of-a-kind gallery designed to foster imagination, experimentation, and storytelling in visitors of all ages. It encapsulates CMA’s values of creativity, experience, and relationships. Works of art are displayed in unexpected ways, and custom, hands-on activities are featured prominently near great works of art.

Leading up to the opening of the NEXT version of the Wonder Room, we asked visitors to share their Wonder Room photos and memories. Below are some of the terrific photos visitors shared.

The new Wonder Room will open in CMA’s JPMorgan Chase Center for Creativity the weekend of October 28 with a special member debut on October 27 from 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM.

Have your own memories of the Wonder Room? Share your photos and tag us on social media: @columbusmuseum and #mycma. 


Teaching for Creativity Institute 2017

Creativity Institute

 The Columbus Museum of Art defines creativity as “the process of using critical thinking and imagination to generate new ideas that have value.”

A fairly straightforward definition, as most would agree, for a far more complex word. And no not complicated in structure or in practice, but in individual meaning. For those not artistically inclined in the traditional sense (like yours truly), creativity can be a scary word, a representation of lack of skill to draw or to paint—memories of your old art classes where you sat in the back with your head down. Yet, for those who attended the recent Teaching for Creativity (TFC) Institute at the Columbus Museum of Art, creativity became more than just a word.

As most have directly or indirectly experienced, the focus of today’s educational practice relies increasingly on teaching for test scores and data. The TFC Institute (held annually) like most of the work of the Learning Department at CMA, seeks to open people’s eyes and minds to their own individual creative abilities, in this case, with hopes of the educators bringing their new knowledge back to the classroom where creativity can find its way into everyday lessons and learning.

The four-day experience exposed the various teachers from across the state of Ohio (and one from West Virginia) to the versatility of creativity across age groups or subject matters. Through speakers, activities and collaboration with fellow attendees, these teachers were able to reflect upon out their own creative practice while making new connections, thinking about problems, and creating their own solutions.

Perhaps the most insightful moment of the four-day event came at the very tail end of the TFC Institute. In the final activity, the sixty participating educators imagined their “perfect summer evening” and then re-imagined that same evening as if they were a monster instead. Many educators chose to create a creature out of various pieces of cardboard, Styrofoam, tape, or whatever else they could get their hands on. The final results were as kooky as you’d expect from the mind of a young elementary student, with just a few adult twists and maybe some straighter lines.

This activity felt very important in the grand scheme of what the TFC Institute was trying to accomplish. Creativity is not just for the artistically inclined or the occasional art class, but rather a skill to be practiced by everyone no matter their age or profession. To see sixty adults sitting on the floor furiously cutting and taping away is a sight to behold. Not only for the slight absurdity of the situation, but for the enthusiasm and eagerness at the chance to create exhibited by educators who had been at the conference for four days.

To stifle creativity in the classroom, or in any environment, does a disservice to the organic originality and imagination that produces so many great ideas in the world. While being exact or following the guidelines has its place and time, impulsiveness can lead to heaps of new ideas and innovations. As students grow older and school become more and more vital to their future, those key problem solving-skills practiced in creative outlets can make learning that much easier. Breaking the norm and expectations of the classroom is easier said than done without a doubt, but with a goal in place to cultivate creativity in the minds of young learners and adults, the first steps are very much in place.

– Sam Brady is a senior at The Ohio State University, currently enrolled in the Middle Childhood Educational Studies program. As part of his program, he is completing a 10-credit hour internship with the Columbus Museum of Art’s Learning Department.

Laura Ziegler 1927-2017

Laura Ziegler

In the 1940s, Columbus native Laura Ziegler won a scholarship to the Columbus Art School (now Columbus College of Art and Design), graduated from Ohio State where sculptor Irwin Frey was her mentor, and studied at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She received a Fulbright Fellowship in 1949 to study polychrome sculpture in Italy and afterwards made her home in the small Tuscan town of Lucca where she lived until her death on May 4 of this year.

During the 1950s, Ziegler’s career enjoyed a meteoric rise. Alfred Barr, then the director of the Museum of Modern Art, saw her work at the Duveen-Graham Gallery in New York and purchased one of her sculptures for his museum. Joseph Hirshhorn was an avid collector of her work and it became a part of his enormous gift to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, DC. Ziegler’s work has been exhibited internationally including the Venice Biennale in 1956 and 1958. She worked on several important architectural projects such as the Velodrome for the 1960 Roman Olympic Games and she created portrait sculptures of many well-known personalities including Gore Vidal, Zero Mostel, and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Like Walking Friar, many of Zeigler’s sculptures are small scale and capture the thoughtful facial expressions and bearings of her subjects. But she has also created monumental commissions including two here in Columbus: the 18-foot steel and Plexiglas cross (1951) at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the Ohio State campus and The Burning Bush (1959) at Temple Israel on East Broad Street. The Columbus Museum of Art presented exhibitions of Ziegler’s work in 1957, 1967, and 2001. In the catalogue for her 2001 exhibition, Laura Ziegler, A Columbus Sculptor Comes Home, the artist stated, “I’m not an ex-patriate. I’m a patriate living temporarily abroad most of my life. I’ve always felt Columbus was my home and I’ve never left it, really. It’s my only home.” She shared her ex-patriate life with Herbert Handt, an American, Julliard-trained opera singer/conductor and fellow Fulbright recipient, whom she married in 1954 and who continues to live in Lucca.

– Carole M. Genshaft, Ph.D.Curator-at-Large

On Becoming a Mentor

On Becoming a Mentor in Teen Open Studio

Andre Williams has been coming to the museum since 2014. He started coming because he heard there was a free music studio available at Teen Open Studio. In 2016 when he turned 20 he was brought on as official staff and became a Mentor. Pretty quickly Andre also joined the Visitor Engagement team, and is also helping visitors in the galleries. He went from donating plasma for money to pay for studio time to helping teens and visitors engage creatively. Below are excerpts from an interview from Spring 2017 between Andre Williams and Michael Voll, the Teen Programs Coordinator at Columbus Museum of Art.

MV: Andre I wanted to talk to you and ask you a couple of questions just so people can know a little bit more about your story. So can you tell me about the first time that you came to Teen Open Studio?

AW: I emailed (you) Mr. Mike and got in contact and got more information about the museum, but specifically the studio.

MV: The music studio?

AW: Yeah the music studio. That was the first thing I was interested in. I had seen ‘free studio’. I was donating plasma for recording studios. We were able to come in, create some stuff, learn some stuff and it expanded from there. Then I figured out that I didn’t want to actually make music. At first I was rapping, but now I make more so records. I might share the ideas. Give the record to somebody and do more behind the scenes with management and marketing. I just started a company not too long ago. I just got my LLC papers back from the Secretary of State. So I have that now.

MV: Congrats!

AW: YEAH. So pretty much I figured out I wanted to do that. I was very artistic and needed ways to express my art but I didn’t know if fully being an artist was my thing. I think more it is me bringing the art out of others and helping people to their potential. I think that’s my thing.

MV: Why did you keep coming back?

AW: The environment. Because after a while, yeah it was the free studio, but after a while people. I brought people to the studio because we were chasing the dream together. But one by one people start falling off. But I still kept coming because I built a foundation and bondage with a lot of people. Like you, Mr. Alvin, and it was good, it was an outlet. I was going through a lot of stuff at the time. Up and down with school, money situations with different stuff. And it was (being) able to talk to you all, coming in to talk with you all on Thursdays and Fridays, and I was able to create something even if I was painting shoes and I was failing.

Most of my first creations I was failing. Most of my time the shoes that I painted sucked in the beginning. They were horrible. My clothes that I was making on the sewing machine sucked. My tailorations on clothes sucked in the beginning, but I still was coming because it was a bond and it was really cool and there were a lot of people here that I was able to vibe with and do different things. I just appreciated it because I needed it. I needed to get away and express my art. And yeah it was real stressful but that kept me going. Coming back was the people. The people here, really, that was really it.

MV: is there anything else that you did as a teen?

AW: Yeah, the music, fashion, mentorship. That’s the number one thing. Like literally people like Beibs, well I call her Beibs but Teen Mentor Morgan, or just some of the other teens I would just sit ant I would admire their art. I didn’t know that I was helping them on their journey, but I was just being sincere. I was being sincere and like I really love your pieces. (Saying) I really love this or the way you did this. I was being sincere and I was seeing that it was motivation and it was helping them. That was the other main thing that I got into and I found my passion. My first year at SURGE and my senior year of high school it showed me that I am supposed to be in something with mentorship.

And mentorship goes a long way, like management, when you’re a manager you are really a mentor. Or when you are leading people you are a mentor. Those are the best leaders not people that are just bosses of people but when you are mentoring people, helping people, when people can see that you are by their side, that you are there to help.

MV: So you were telling me a story earlier when you were about to turn 20.

AW: I was stressing before I turned 20, like what am I going to do? I was like dang. And I had no clue there was a job opportunity available. Before I turned 20 you and Mr. Alvin offered me a job. I was really appreciative because I did not want to leave and I didn’t know what I was going to do next. I didn’t have anything to do next. I was working, at that time, I was working three jobs. I was working a third-shift job. I was working at Foot Locker, and I had taken two classes at Columbus State, but I started failing one of my classes so it was bad. That time was a learning experience. Having three jobs, I was in school and I was still coming here. And here was giving me the outlet with everything with stress. Thinking that myself I was not going nowhere because I was doing too much. I didn’t have any goals or aspirations or anything, but coming here it kept me and it shined the light on what I was supposed to do.

MV: When Mackenzie left, the previous mentor, because of college conflicts I remember asking her, “Hey do you have any friends who you would recommend to be a mentor?” She said, “100 percent hire Andre. He already does everything a mentor needs. He has the mindset, he has the knowledge, he has the skills.”

AW: I appreciate it.

MV: So my last question is: Where do you see yourself in the future?

AW: I definitely see myself still mentoring. Definitely when I get to a place I am giving back to SURGE. And I definitely see myself running an entertainment company like I am starting to do. Helping artists and different people. Building a brand, Slim Hype, with my brand I am doing self-help and education, but also music and entertainment. The main thing is helping. I want to help everybody reach their potential, reach their goals and reach their destiny. That is my end goal, to build that. It’s about collaboration. That is the number one thing that I have learned here, it is about collaborating.

MV: I think you will do it. So do you have anything else to say?

AW: Man um it’s weird. I am getting emotional. I appreciate you Mr. Mike I really do, like sincerely from the bottom of my heart every, every, everything that you have done. And you will prolly look and understand, but know that you impacted a lot of us. And I know you impacted me.

MV: Thank you. You inspire me, and you inspire a lot of people. I hope you see that in yourself too.


The Columbus Museum of Art has provided more than 200 hours of programming annually for Columbus teens like Andre Williams, who now serves as a program mentor in Teen Open Studio.

Help shape unique experiences like Teen Open Studio, and nurture an environment that fosters teens’ creative thinking skills, exploration, and learning.