The Santa Cruz community came together last Friday to celebrate deceased loved ones through different types of memorabilia and artistic expression.

Santa Cruz’s Museum of Art & History (MAH) held its free First Friday on Nov. 1, which included arts and crafts, food, music, dancing and more. This month the museum celebrated Día de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, which is a Mexican holiday celebrated throughout various parts of the world today. Different activities take place during the celebration for family and friends who meet to remember love ones.

“We are [celebrating Día de los Muertos] here through our festival,” said youth programs manager Emily Dobkin. “We have been doing this for a few years now as a way to give local community members a central space to gather, remember and honor loved ones who are no longer with them.”

Many activities took place at the festival, including creating paper mache flowers, face painting and hourly dance as well as a screening of Common Ground, a film about how the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead has grown in Watsonville, Calif.

The community had the chance to contribute this First Friday through the displayed community altar, where students from various schools and programs in Santa Cruz County shared photographs and other mementos and wrote about their memories of family members or loved ones who passed. Attendees could also bring their own mementos and send a message in a flower made out of streamers and pipe cleaners during the event to their loved ones.

First Friday is a tradition throughout Santa Cruz where multiple galleries and other institutions hold free shows on the first Friday of every month.

“It’s the chance to collaborate with local organizations and bring awareness to particular goals or interests because each monthly First Friday has a different theme,” said community programs coordinator Nora Grant. Grant agreed that First Friday provides an invaluable service to the Santa Cruz cultures and communities.

“Participating in Santa Cruz’s First Friday allows us to not only welcome a wide variety of visitors into the museums’ exhibits,” Grant said, “but to further connect those visitors to art, culture and people. First Friday is a long-standing tradition and meaningful event for the MAH. It is a chance for people from all walks of life to experience the museum.”

While the MAH’s Fridays always include live music and art making, the Día de los Muertos event was “hyper-awesome” because there were more activities to take part in than usual, Grant said. “This First Friday certainly has more of a festival vibe than our other First Fridays,” Dobkin said. “There is more for visitors to engage in, and in a more celebratory way than other First Fridays.”