Celebration of dead and living stories of Mexico through immersive theater and interactive art installations.

Immersive event

Creative Director • Producer • Scenic Designer
2022 and 2023

CalArts Day of the Dead Celebration 2023

This week-long festival was a profound homage to the enduring spirit of a culture, a testament to the unyielding soul that defines its people. Through the universal mediums of music and dance, we captured the intricate dance of life and death, the seamless melding of spiritual and material worlds, and the harmonious blend of diverse cultural elements.

The hummingbird, our chosen spirit guide, perfectly symbolized this year's theme. Esteemed for its unique capability to bridge different worlds, the hummingbird reflects the essence of the Day of the Dead. This celebration honors the delicate balance between life and death, where the spirits of the departed reunite with the living, creating a sacred nexus between realms. The hummingbird's significance was further amplified by the profound Mesoamerican concept of Ometeotl, representing the inherent duality in existence and the creative force intertwining all facets of life. This theme of duality, illustrated through the cyclic dance of opposites—light and dark, warmth and cold, life and death—echoed throughout the event.

The event was a hub of artistic synergy. We dedicated spaces to the amalgamation of diverse art forms, creating an ambiance where artistic expressions from varied backgrounds merged seamlessly. A diverse coalition of artists—encompassing dancers, vocalists, actors, percussionists, composers, and more—lent their unique talents, crafting a narrative that flowed smoothly across different spaces and eras. The performance featured an array of musical renditions on Indigenous Mesoamerican instruments, a traditional P'urhépecha folk dance group, the CalArts Latin American Ensemble, and a Bolero Band.

Embracing an experiential design approach, the CalArts Main Gallery was transformed into "Anahuac", the fabled "land between waters" where the roots of Mexico were sown. Within this gallery space, traditional decorations harmoniously converged with an altar placed at its heart. Here, members of the CalArts community were invited to honor their departed loved ones by contributing cherished objects, personal mementos, and photographs of those they want to remember on Day of the Dead.

Concept Art

As the pages of Mexican history continue to be written, Tsipekua 2023 stands as a vivid constellation, seamlessly threading together myriad relationships and contradictions. It reveals a culture where contrasts intertwine in a rich and stunning composition, representing a community where the essence of existence is defined by harmonious coexistence and shared identity.

Day of the Dead in Gloria Molina Grand Park 2023

Since our first Day of the Dead Celebration at CalArts in 2022, our ambition has been to scale the project's reach and deepen its impact, particularly across the broader Los Angeles community. In 2023, this vision took a significant stride forward through a partnership with the Mexican Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, culminating in the creation of a public art installation at the core of Gloria Molina Grand Park.

The park, recently renamed in honor of Gloria Molina, stands as a testament to her years of tenacious advocacy—a space conceived for Angelenos to forge bonds and nurture community spirit. Following her recent passing, our endeavor to create an ofrenda within this space was imbued with deep meaning, serving as a symbol of respect, remembrance, and our collective dedication to the principles of community.

The ofrenda we crafted was a heartfelt homage to Gloria Molina's indelible impact as a pioneering force in Chicano politics. With its intricate blend of textures and hues, the altar emerged as a three-dimensional quilt, each thread and patch a narrative of her devotion to quilting, her unwavering dedication to fostering community, and her relentless pursuit of social justice. This creation wasn't just an artistic expression; it was a vibrant quilt of memories, a poignant tribute that echoed her enduring legacy and resonated deeply within the hearts of the Mexican and Mexican American communities across Los Angeles.

CalArts Day of the Dead Celebration 2022

Collective artistic intervention and tradition immersed guests in stories from past and present Mexico for the first Día de Muertos celebration at CalArts.

The CalArts campus was transformed into a graveyard where art installations conveyed the stories of characters that came to life at night in an immersive theater performance. Taking inspiration from the Monarch butterfly's migration, the characters buried in this cemetery shared their profound connections and journeys between death and life, the essence they chose to preserve within themselves, and their wisdom  for those who are still living in the pursuit of pure joy.

Throughout the week, designers, artists, and performers created spaces for cultural exchange and collective artistic interventions to emphasize the public function of art as it has been done historically in Mexico. We did this through murals and ephemeral art - art forms celebrated not for their permanence but for their transient beauty and accessibility. These creations, inherently impermanent and universally accessible, symbolized public heritage, epitomizing the ethos of art created for and by the community, resonating with the communal spirit and collective identity.

'Tsipekua' is a transformation that challenges the way art was created and experienced at CalArts from a truly interdisciplinary effort that remains true to the existential, social, and spiritual function of Día de Muertos.

This initiative transcends conventional boundaries, infusing artistic practice with profound cultural significance and offering a testament to the rich traditions and deep-rooted values of this cherished celebration.

In Mexico, the celebration of Día de Muertos is not just an event but a profound embodiment of spiritual, social, and ritualistic elements within the fabric of society. It is a day distinct yet familiar, where the duality of life and death coalesce in a harmonious dance, reflecting the natural rhythm of existence.

In this spirit, it is paramount for us to ensure that 'Tsipekua' becomes a nexus where the narratives of Mexico and CalArts converge, creating a rich dialogue. Through the medium of collective artmaking and immersive storytelling, 'Tsipekua' aims to reflect this harmonious journey, allowing the diverse stories and spirits of both worlds to walk side by side, mirroring the intricate dance of life and death celebrated in Día de Muertos.

Credits: Tsipekua 2023

Co-director and Playwright
Jeannette Srinivasan

Dulce Escobedo

Directing Consultant
Ilse Castro

Sound Technician
Joshua Salgado

Music Composer and Sound Designer
Pablo Leñero

Indigenous Instruments of Mesoamerica Music Performance
“México Atemporal” Christopher Garcia and Pablo Leñero

Scenic Design Team
Nicholas Sasano • Victoria Solorio • Gerardo Quintata Bernal • Bonnie Kim • HongJu Lee • Nicholas Sasano • Xiaoke Zhang

Mural Design (Conceptual Phase)
Antoine Couttolenc Camacho

Costume Design Team
Arthur Siprut • Briana Newson • Artemis Wiegand

CalArts Latin American Music Ensemble Coordinator
Julianne Sillona

Bolero Band Coordinator
Chris Galindo

Lighting Assistance
Miles Karraa

Josephine Nuñez • Jared Perez • Linda Paola Varela • Gerardo Quintata Bernal

P’urhépecha Folk Dance
Danza de Los Viejitos Corazón Alegre

Film and Photography Team
Xochitl Cruz • Fernanda Jurado • Alejandra Sanchez • Juliana Webster

Watercolor Workshop Facilitator
Polaris Castillo

Jordanna Peronico • Miranda Rosales

Blick Art Materials, Mexican Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, Student Art & Leadership Initiative, CalArts School of Theater, Nick England Intercultural Arts Project, CalArts Student Union.

Special thanks
Everyone who volunteered and participated throughout the week, the CalArts Latin American Ensemble, Margarita Medina, José Antonio Aguirre, Christina Dailey, Taso Dimitriadis, Shannon Scrofano, Evelyn Serrano, the Solorio family.

Dedicated to those who keep alive the stories and traditions of their heritage, transcending the boundaries of life and death.

Credits: Tsipekua in Gloria Molina Grand Park 2023
Scenic Design and Fabrication Team
Victoria Solorio • Gerardo Quintata Bernal • HongJu Lee • Xiaoke Zhang

Mexican Cultural Institute of Los Angeles and Blick Art Materials

Credits: Tsipekua 2022

Co-director and Playwright
Jeannette Srinivasan

Associate Producer
Elizabeth Zaragoza

Mural Consultant and Coordinator
Marlene Solorio

Scenic Design Team
Victoria Solorio • Tilda Seo • Bonnie Kim • Jennifer Park • Ryan Meglino • Shannon M Siegel • Macine Johnson • HongJu Lee • Zoë Lappin • Erika Salazar

Costume Design Team
Karen Ayala • Margot le Duy

Sound Designers
Joshua Salgado • Ashray Harishankar

Lighting Designer
Alejandro Melendez

Stage Manager
Mia Condon 

Sculpture Artist
Nikki Ochoa

Photography and Film Team
Fernanda Jurado • Gabriela Gonzalez • Sedona Cruz • Alejandra Sanchez • Emiliano Aguirre

Makeup Designers
Alexa Orovitz • Arson Kim

Grant García • Maria Jurado • Linda Paola Varela • Nina Malinow • Ember Vinci • Atlas Molina

Student Art & Leadership Initiative, CalArts School of Theater, Nick England Intercultural Arts Project, CalArts Student Union.

Special thanks
Everyone who volunteered and participated throughout the week, José Antonio Aguirre, Christina Dailey, Taso Dimitriadis, Brenda Ivelisse, Shannon Scrofano, Evelyn Serrano, the Solorio family.

Dedicated to the people Mexican at heart around the world who have made it possible for us to share these stories with you.