Day of the Dead dies as cemetery cuts arts

November 4, 2011
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Another cultural event mainstay at Forest Hills Cemetery has been killed off as the Forest Hills Educational Trust (FHET) continues its mysterious cutbacks.

La Piñata’s yearly Day of the Dead celebration, held at Forest Hills Cemetery for almost a decade, is the latest victim of FHET’s suspension of programming, in place since January.

“They closed the door on us,” said Juan Gonzales, a spokesperson for La Piñata, the organizing body behind the Day of the Dead celebration.

Emails and phone calls to FHET were not returned by the Gazette’s deadline.

The last time La Piñata had contact with FHET was this summer, during planning for the Lantern Festival.

“We still haven’t heard from them with a concrete yes or no,” Gonzales said on Oct. 31. The event is traditionally held on Nov. 2, after the Gazette’s deadline. “Officially, they haven’t told us anything.”

“They owe the community an answer,” Gonzales said.

La Piñata held its related Fiesta de los Muertos event at Spontaneous Celebrations’ Danforth Street location last Saturday, as usual.

FHET programming was abruptly suspended in January to evaluate the future of the nonprofit organization through a survey on FHET’s website, as the Gazette reported at the time. The outcome of that evaluation is still unclear.

FHET has only hosted the Lantern Festival and a series of walking tours this year.

If FHET does not maintain last year’s level of cultural programming, it could lose its steady funding from the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), as the Gazette has previously reported.

The FHET is part of the MCC’s Cultural Investment Portfolio program, under which it is funded for a three-year cycle if it meets certain criteria.

Part of the criteria is providing cultural programming, Gregory Liakos, MCC’s communications director, told the Gazette in July. He explained that, “Only in the most extreme cases when we or the organization determine it is no longer able to carry out its basic mission will we discuss rescinding funding.”

FHET has previously sponsored and run contemporary art initiatives, concerts, poetry readings, history tours, education programs and signature events such as the annual Lantern Festival and Day of the Dead celebrations at the cemetery. Over 6,000 people attended last year’s events.

Jonathan Clark, the program coordinator at FHET, told the Gazette in July that the Day of the Dead celebration’s future was not certain.

 

 

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