Cameron Pollack / Sun photography Editor

The altar in Dewitt Park allows Ithaca community members to place items that honor loved ones to help them in their grieving process.

March 21, 2017

Local Art Collective Installs Community Altar , Hopes to Promote Accessible Art

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Members of Art Club, an Ithaca-based community artistic collective, installed a community altar in Dewitt Park on Monday to help the community celebrate the dead and work through various grieving processes.

The shack-like structure — made of wood, lights, string and other materials — includes a series of shelves under a small roof where members of the community can place items honoring loved ones or memories.

Charity Burger, one of the founding members of Art Club, said the project was inspired by Dia de los Muertos, the Mexican holiday known as Day of the Dead.

“The inspiration of this project was drawn from Day of The Dead,  which focuses on celebrating the lives of deceased ancestors,” Burger said. “We thought that it was an important part of community and saw that it was missing in our own.”

Burger and Christina Coleman, co-founder of the club, named the installation “Community Altar: Your neighborhood art installation of love and loss” and it features a slanted roof covered in moss.

The Art Club began the arduous process of getting approval from several local boards and commissions last year, as well as the Presbyterian Church, which owns the park.

The group had initially planned to put up the altar on Dec. 21 — the winter solstice — but the process of implementation took longer than expected.

“The spring equinox actually feels really good [for installing the altar,]” Burger said. “It is this time of rebirth, of sowing seeds, of setting intentions, so it worked out perfectly in the end.”

Coleman and Burger founded the Art Club about two years ago with the goal of making art accessible to the community, Burger said.

“It is so rewarding, even if it is just one person who comes up and says that our art makes them feel better,” Burger said.

The Ithaca-area artist added that public art strengthens the bonds within the Ithaca community and noted that Mayor Svante Myrick ’09 was very supportive of the project at the Common Council meeting approving the altar.

“Mayor Svante loved the idea of the parks being utilized and was really cool about it,” Burger said.

The altar will be in the park until April 17 and the artists invite Ithacans to “participate personally and watch it evolve communally.”