In 1979 the artists of Pilsen’s Pros Arts Studio decided to join their neighborhood’s largely Mexican community in celebrating Dia de los Muertos. They made copies of a drawing by Mexican printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada with a schedule of events on the back and passed them out. Then they marched in an informal procession.

Twenty years later, the studio is still celebrating the Day of the Dead. This year it offered a month of free workshops for neighborhood kids. On Tuesday people of all ages will assemble at Dvorak Park for the traditional procession.

Such intimate involvement in the community has helped Pros Arts become the success it is today, with 20 artists living and working in the area who teach year-round classes in dance, drama, circus arts, and video making. “Everything we do in the community is free,” says cofounder Jean Parisi. “Kids who move out of the neighborhood return to the workshops.” As for the artists of Pros Arts, “people stay for the duration. They’re committed to the community.”

On Tuesday, the 20th annual Pros Arts Studio Dia de los Muertos will begin at 4 at Dvorak Park, 1119 W. Cullerton, where participants will have their faces made up as calaveras, or skulls. At 5 the children’s drama and circus-arts classes will perform, followed by the procession, which will arrive at Casa Aztlan, 1831 S. Racine, at about 6:30 for refreshments and traditional music. For more information call 312-226-7767.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo copyright Marc PoKempner 1999.