Heard Museum to celebrate Frida's birthday on First Friday

Hundreds are expected to attend the celebration, featuring a flower crown station, birthday cake and more

The Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix is opening its doors to all visitors on this Friday for Fiesta de Frida, a celebration of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo's 110th birthday.

The museum, only a few light rail stops away from the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, will be free to the public and will offer music, poetry and a watermelon and tajin tasting station.

The event will also feature birthday cake and "La Marcha de las Fridas," where those dressed up as Kahlo can congregate and dance in honor of the artist, Mexican wedding style.

This celebration is in conjunction with the Heard's latest exhibit, "Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera," which costs $7 to visit. 

The exhibit, which will not be shown anywhere else in North America, features photographs of Kahlo and mural painter Diego Rivera, her husband. The gallery includes some of their most famed works, including Kahlo's "Self-portrait with monkeys" and Rivera's "Calla lily vendor." 

Frida Kahlo, a painter known for her surrealist self-portraits, died at 47 in 1954 but would become one of the most recognized figures in art history as an icon for Chicanos and the feminist movement.

The Phoenix Fridas, a Latina art collective, will showcase their artwork at Fiesta de Frida.

"During her era, she was able to live as a full-time artist, handle her business dealings and be true to herself in what she painted," said Kathy Cano-Murillo, founder of the Phoenix Fridas. "If she could do that back then, we can do the same in this day and age too."

Cano-Murillo said the Phoenix Fridas have been celebrating Kahlo's birth for years.

"We're all independent artists, and we each have our own different style," said Cano-Murillo. "We're all inspired by Frida in the way that she was a working artist, and we're all working artists. We love to carry on her legacy in that way."

This is the third year that the Mexican artist's birthday will be celebrated at the Heard Museum.

Shaliyah Ben, the public programs manager for the Heard Museum, said this year's celebration would be a rare experience of the featured "Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera" exhibit.

"Having the physical extension of Frida Kahlo here in the form of paintings is something very unique," said Ben, an ASU alumna. "Frida's artwork was a physical extension of her thoughts.

"I really do truly believe that when you create works of art that powerful, that person remains with those pieces. Having that celebration here will be special because there will be song, there will be laughter, there will be people—things that Frida enjoyed...That feeds the work and it feeds her spirit."

Ben said the Phoenix Fridas' artwork would also add to the atmosphere of the event.

"Frida and her spirit lives on in the work that they do, so having them as a partner to celebrate her is also something that will be very unique," said Ben.

Ben said the museum found a home for the Mexican artist's works because Kahlo, who was German and Mexican, connected strongly with her indigenous ancestry. 

"She very much embraced being an indigenous person, and did that through her dress," Ben said. "What we focused on in the beginning, here at the Heard, was indigenous cultures of the Southwest. Now what we're doing is expanding on indigenous expression and art throughout the Americas."

Ben said she hopes that as people attend the celebration, they come to see that the Heard has "a sense of place in Phoenix."

"We have more to offer than just a one-time celebration," said Ben. "It's a stepping stone for further education, for further learning. It is a time to come and celebrate, but this should be a community area where people can come...and use the space here."

Yessenia Grajeda, an incoming ASU freshman and behavioral sciences major, is a tour guide for the museum.

Grajeda said she looks forward to hearing poetry by Divine Valentin about the spirit of Frida Kahlo.

"I think it'll be interesting to have a different art form here at the museum where we mostly focus on visual art," said Grajeda.

Grajeda said she was interested in the life of Frida Kahlo and wrote a research paper about her in high school about her artwork.

"I always felt close to Frida because of our shared Mexican heritage and passion for creating art," Grajeda said. "To be able to tell people about her and the heavy emotions and stories behind each of her artworks is a way to carry on her legacy while doing something that I feel passionate about."

The "Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera" exhibit will be housed in the museum until Aug. 20, 2017.


Reach the reporter at mphan2@asu.edu or follow @mvyphvn on Twitter.

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