Summer CSGC Grant Update: Ofrenda Mural Project

It has been almost a month and a half since my previous bulletin post and at this point in time, I have finished my mural. Because of my constant traveling this break, I didn’t get the chance to work on my mural until after August 4th.

This is the first time I have individually completed a mural project from start to finish. I have learned much from this experience, everything from design, applying for funding, to getting permission from the town council, to purchasing supplies, to painting. Two years back, I did not have the confidence to paint a mural on my own. Now with more experience and confidence, I have accomplished what I could not do two years ago.

I started designing the mural before I even applied for a CSGC grant. I went through several different drafts before finally settling on the design it is today. I started with research, which included google and other online resources as well as my friends that are of Hispanic heritage. My research, however, came out quite inconclusive, with me still struggling to find a good idea for my mural. In the end, I settled on the idea of painting a bright Ofrenda from the Mexican Day of the Dead, which is a very famous holiday. This was because, despite the design being complex in small details, it can be separated into big shapes like blocks, making it well suited for a mural.

However, when I showed this design to my mom, who grew up in China, she was immediately uneasy. She said that the design reminded her of a Chinese altar, saying that it was bad and unlucky to have a representation of death in a public setting. This was where I saw cultural conflict arising. I explained to my mother that the Day of the Dead was a celebratory, cheerful holiday, different from the Chinese holiday of death QingMing festival which was a solemn holiday. Slowly but surely my mother came around to accepting the design and supporting it. Conflict is bound to happen when people are introduced to new cultures that are different from their own. They will want to avoid it, to reject it, however, with something like this mural, more people will be exposed to other cultures. In doing so more people can learn to accept another culture different from their own.

This summer was exceptionally hot, even for New England. Because of this, I worked mainly in the early mornings and late afternoons. I painted everything in layers, starting with the striped purple background. I finally finished painting the mural on August 16.

I find that this whole experience has been very eye-opening and I have learned a lot, not only from the artistic but also from the cultural aspects. I’m really grateful that the CSGC has provided me with this opportunity to share another culture to my town.

-Kayleen Tang ’25