Ofrendas: Celebrating el Día de Muertos - Call for Proposals, Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts, in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate of Detroit and the Southwest Detroit Business Association, extends an open call for proposals of ofrenda altars or offerings honoring the life and memory of lost loved ones as part of a celebration of the traditions of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead). 

In Mexico, and other Latin American countries, the Day of the Dead is the time of the year to celebrate the lives of close relatives, friends, or community members who have passed away. Objects important to lost loved ones, such as favorite foods, drinks, mementos, and pictures, are collected and incorporated into elaborate displays that include pan de muerto (bread of the dead), sugar skulls, candles, flowers, papel picado (paper cutouts) and other decorations. 

Our program is designed to: 

  • invite audiences to become familiar with ofrendas and the Day of the Dead celebrations,
  • build a sense of community by facilitating the making of personal connections with the reasons and ways people honor the deceased, and
  • encourage artists and visitors to participate in the act of remembering. 

We are excited to reach out to local artists and community members for their ofrenda proposals inspired by the Mexican traditions of Día de Muertos. Proposals will be reviewed by a selection committee composed of DIA staff and local community members, and considered using the following criteria: Clarity of intent (who or what is being honored), level of displayed artistry and/or creativity, and alignment with the values and characteristics of the Día de Muertos tradition. 

The selected ofrendas will be displayed to the public from Saturday, September 25 through Sunday, November 07, 2021, in the Special Exhibitions Galleries Central. The artist or group of artists of each selected ofrenda will receive a $300 stipend. 

How to participate

To submit a proposal, fill out the submission form https://forms.gle/QpZtSBqKRLjCvfvc9 to provide us with the following information, by Friday, June 25, 2021, at 5 p.m. EST: 

  • Your name and contact information
  • A short statement about yourself in about 20-30 words. What is your background and what drives your creativity and connection to the community? (If your proposal is selected, this statement will be edited for grammar, stylistic consistency, and space for a label accompanying your piece.)
  • A short statement about the meaning of your piece in about 50-70 words. Who or what are you are honoring? Why? What are the most important images and objects you chose to connect to and to represent them? (If your proposal is selected, this statement will be edited for grammar, stylistic consistency, and space for a label accompanying your piece.)
  • A detailed physical description of the piece
  • A visual image (sketch of proposed piece, or visual inspiration for your piece)
  • Dimensions of the work, including height, width, and depth (not to exceed 10’ tall by 6’ wide by 4’deep) 

Materials that will be included in the work (paper, plastic, type of paint, etc.). Please be as specific as possible. If your proposal is selected, the DIA retains the right to deny the use of any material not listed and that does not meet our standards. All materials must comply with the following guidelines: 

  • All objects must be clean and may not include rotten, soiled, oily, and/or mildewed materials and may not be bug infested 
  • All textiles must be freshly laundered/cleaned
  • Food/drinks must be artificial or in tightly sealed containers (this includes sugar skulls)
  • Unopened or sealed alcoholic beverages will not be allowed. Cleaned & empty alcohol containers, however, may be used
  • Flowers must be artificial
  • Natural materials (such as branches, mulch, pinecones, pumice, cornhusks) must either be artificial or have been sterilized and recently purchased from a commercial supplier, preferably in the original packaging when it enters the building
  • The DIA reserves the right to request floor protection (rubber mats, carpet squares, tarps, etc.) to be placed underneath any type of furniture or equipment with metal feet or bases or any object/material that may cause damage to the floor
  • Candles must have wick removed or be electric.
  • Paint will not be allowed in the galleries. All painting must take place off-site and be completely dry before entering the museum
  • Each altar must be self-standing
  • Mounting of any item to the wall is not allowed without prior consent from DIA. All mounting hardware must be approved by DIA prior to use
  • Tape may not be used on the floor or any other DIA surface
  • Helium balloons are prohibited in the museum’s galleries
  • Technical needs (access to electrical outlets, extension cords, etc.). Any electrical devices must be UL rated. The DIA will be unable to provide any audio or visual equipment. Please note, the DIA will not be able to maintain battery-operated objects with regularity. Wherever possible, please use corded devices.  

Selected artists will be notified by Friday, July 02, 2021. 

Selected artists will be required to fully install their altar on September 8, 9, 10, 11, or 12 and to deinstall on November 7, 8, 9, or 10. Strict scheduling will be required to maintain safe social distancing practices. Selected artists will also be required to participate in a Q&A session, either in a face-to-face program on Sunday, November 7 from 2 to 3 p.m. or using an online platform should public gatherings not be considered safe at that time. 

As the situation with Covid-19 unfolds, the DIA will continue to monitor best practices for the safety of our visitors, staff, and guest artists and retains the right to reschedule or cancel this exhibition if it is deemed necessary. 


Presented in partnership with Consulado de México en Detroit, MI and Southwest Detroit Business Association