D'Kyryn Hall, a sixth grader at Three Lakes Middle School, has already achieved one of his dreams. His drawing of a sugar skull decorated with bright colors, in honor of Day of the Dead, is on display at the Tyler Museum of Art.

"It has always been my dream," Hall said. "It turned out really well for me. I'm really proud of it."

As part of the museum's sixth annual Middle School Day of the Dead Art Exhibition, Hall and close to 500 students from nine middle schools in East Texas have their Day of the Dead-inspired artwork displayed at the museum from now through Nov.8.

Tyler Museum of Art Executive Director Chris Leahy said that the exhibit gives students a strong sense of accomplishment while also teaching them about the Day of the Dead.

"What we want the students to get from this first and foremost is the joy and the feeling of success of having their art, which they made in the classroom, in an art museum," Leahy said. "This Day of the Dead is very much a family oriented holiday and, culturally, it's to recognize the family's deceased and to remember them. (The students have) done that through their artwork."

As a part of the exhibit, the Tyler Museum of Art also held a celebration of Dia de los Muertos and reception on Sunday from 2 to 4p.m. for students, their families and the community.

The reception included snacks and activity tables where people could engage in activities, such as decorating sugar skulls, making miniature altars, making flowers and others creations related to the Day of the Dead.

Tyler Museum of Art Education Department Intern Kelsey Bailey organized many of the details of this year's event and believes the museum's celebration of the Day of the Dead is important.

"I think Day of the Dead is something that is very big and colorful in Mexico and there are people in Tyler who celebrate it," Ms. Bailey said. "It's not something that a lot of people really know about other than just how it looks."

Ms. Bailey said that after attending the celebration at the museum, many of the attendees and activity participants left with a better understanding and appreciation of the holiday.

"The sugar skull is such a pop culture thing now and people don't really know what it is …," Bailey said. "I bet you every one of these students knows about the holiday now."

Though Kaitlyn Killian is now a senior at Whitehouse High School, she said that she and her family have been attending the celebration and exhibit at the museum for years. She said that they also have sugar skulls that they created at the museum from its former Day of the Dead Celebrations.

Miss Killian once again enjoyed the celebration and what she has learned from her years of attending it.

"We come to this every year and it's always really fun," Ms. Killian said. I like all the stations. It has taught me a lot about the culture."

Leahy said that the level of participation from art work being included in the exhibit has tripled over the last three years.

This year, schools with students that have art represented in the exhibit include: Boulter Middle School, Hogg Middle School, Moore Middle School and Three Lakes Middle School from TISD, as well as All-Saints Episcopal School, Bishop T.K. Gorman Regional Catholic School, Brook Hill School, Frankston Middle School and Winona Middle School.

Leahy hopes that through this exhibit students not only learn about the significance of the Day of the Dead, but they and those in community continue to come out and see all that the Tyler Museum of Art has to offer.

"It's just a great opportunity and for us it's to show we are a part of the community and that we're a place where they can come to and enjoy," Leahy said.

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