Dia de los Muertos challenges Halloween stereotypes at UVU

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UVU student paints interactive art piece celebrating culture, beauty of death

The LA concourse hallway has been home to an interactive art piece celebrating the Latin American holiday, Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), for several days.

Thomas Mata, a junior modern dance major at UVU, said he was asked to paint “something beautiful” for Dia de los Muertos.

This painting included an ofrenda and notes for people to post the names of their loved ones’ who have passed away. The painting was done by Thomas Mata,  and photographed by Abby Van Buren.

He chose to cover the windows of the Multicultural Student Services office with a painting of a hispanic woman, inspired by the “beauty of death.”

It took him three days to paint the piece over two-hour intervals.

“A lot of people fear death, but there is also a beauty to it, because Dia de los Muertos is recognition of the ones that you’ve lost,” Mata said. “When they passed away, their beauty followed them.”

The ofrenda had candles, decorative skulls and pictures of prominent Latin American figures displayed across it. Photo by Abby Van Buren.

The piece includes an ofrenda, a collection of objects, foods, and pictures on a table meant to honor those who have died before.

The painting allows students to get involved by writing down the names of their loved ones who have died on notes and stick them all around the piece. 

Asked about his favorite part of Dia de Los Muertos, Mata said, “For Halloween, a lot of people are scary and stuff like that, but for Dia de los Muertos it’s supposed to be more beauty and remembering those people that passed away.”

Notes were posted all around the painting  by students, with the names of loved ones’ to be honored. Photo by Abby Van Buren.


Mata spoke about baking loved ones’ favorite foods for the ofrenda and gathering with family to swap funny stories about those who’ve died.

Photo Credit: Abby Van Buren, managing editor