Press Release


Sueños Sin Fronteras / Dreams without Borders:

Ofrenda in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.

(Part of the Africana World Program Series)

Dia de los muertos / Day of the Dead Celebration

~ Altar of Freedom ~


SOUTH BEND, IN. In recognition of Martin Luther King, Jr’s 50th anniversary of the march on Washington, D.C., as well as his visit to South Bend and the University of Notre Dame, the Crossroads Gallery for Contemporary Art of the Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture (NDCAC) cordially invites you to attend Sueños Sin Fronteras / Dreams without Borders: Ofrenda in Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. This Day of the Dead celebration will be held on Wednesday, October 16, 2013, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. at 1045 West Washington Street, South Bend, IN. The MLK Ofrenda will be created by Diógenes Ballester, an internationally renowned Puerto Rican artist from New York City. Musical performances will be provided by Luther Gray and Mariachi ND. Mr. Gray, an internationally acclaimed percussionist from New Orleans, LA, will perform along with band members from Chicago. The event is FREE and OPEN to the public.

Refreshments will be provided. For more information:   

Dia de los muertos in Mexico and now in the U.S., where large Latino/a populations are found, is a day to celebrate, remember and prepare special foods in honor of those who have departed. It is believed that the spirit of the dead visit their families at midnight on October 31 and leave on November 2. On this day in Mexico, the streets near the cemeteries are filled with decorations of papel picado (perforated paper), flowers, candy calaveras (skeletons and skulls), and parades. The Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico can be traced back to a pre-Columbian past.

As part of these celebrations, families make altares (altars) and place ofrendas (offerings) of food such as pan de muertos (bread of the dead baked in shapes of skulls and figures), candles, incense, yellow marigolds known as cempazuchitl (also spelled zempasuchil) and most importantly a photo of the departed soul is placed on the altar.

For this year’s NDCAC Dia de los muertos celebration, Diógenes Ballester will create an ofrenda in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr., an American clergyman, activist, and leader in the African American civil rights movement. The title of the installation is: Altar de la Libertad /Altar of Freedom: Opening Paths in all Directions. Using many of the traditional elements, Mr. Ballester has created a contemporary style altar and would like to extends an invitation to the community to participate in adding objects to the installation that symbolize MLK’s leadership and spirit, such as keys, shoes and rosaries.

Diógenes Ballester is a visual artist, educator, and writer and holds a MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BFA from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. As a youth, he attended the prestigious art preparatory School of Visual Arts Miguel Pou and studied at the Ponce Museum of Art in Ponce, Puerto Rico. Mr. Ballester works in different artistic media including painting, printmaking, drawing, new media, and installation art and is recognized as a master encaustic painter and printmaker. He has received numerous honors for his artistic work and has exhibited widely in the United States, Europe, Asia, Latin American and the Caribbean.

This program will also include music by renowned percussionist Luther Gray from New Orleans, LA. Mr. Gray, who is originally from the Midwest, now is considered by many as a “Native Orleanian.” He received his B.A. in Radio, Television & Film from the University of Wisconsin, Madison and his Masters in Communication from the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. This drumming sensation has created two major musical groups: Percussion Incorporated and Bamboula 2000, for which he has won the Big Easy Music Award in the World Music Category twice. He is also credited with the founding of the Congo Square Foundation, which began in 1989. The goal of this foundation is to bring cultural activities and drumming back to the historic Congo Square in New Orleans. In 1994, the foundation was successful in registering Congo Square on the National Register of Historic Places.

This is a community collaborative Dia de los muertos celebration with events also being held at the Indiana University Civil Rights Heritage Center at the Natatorium on Friday, October 25, 2013,  7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. and at the Institute for Latino Studies, McKenna Hall at the University of Notre Dame on Friday, November 1, 2013, 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

The NDCAC provides distinctly premier educational opportunities and inspiration via the creation and appreciation of art, the study of cultures, and community engagement. The NDCAC is located in the West-side of South Bend, in a neighborhood that is undergoing responsible change in community development.

This program is part of the Africana World: A Historical and Mosaic series coordinated by the Office of Community Affairs and Department of Africana Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

This event is made possible in part by support from the Institute for Latino Studies, Letras Latinas, Department of Africana Studies, Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Office of Community Relations, Office of First Year Students, Office of the Provost, and the Snite Museum of Art at the University of Notre Dame. Special thanks to Entergy-New Orleans, and Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center for their sponsorship and support. We are pleased that this is a collaborative project with the Indiana University Civil Rights Heritage Center at the Natatorium.