Rita Flores de Wallace is the featured artist at the Taller (master-artist workshop) at CelebrARTE this Sunday 1–4 pm. She will show how we can celebrate the Día de los Muertos by transforming favorite DAM art into mini-muertos.
I met Rita Flores de Wallace in the early nineties at Museo de las Américas, where she was leading a tour related to Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). I was impressed by her knowledge of this very important Mexican celebration, but also by the warmth and accessibility of her delivery. Immediately after the tour ended, I asked her to join our then very small group of Spanish language guides at the Denver Art Museum. To my delight, she accepted without hesitation. Getting to know Rita in the years that have followed has been a joy and a continuous life lesson. As it turned out the woman I had just met was not only a museum guide, but a consummate folklorist, an artist in her own right, and a keeper of the treasured traditions from Mexico.
Thanks to her generous nature as an educator, she has taught countless school children, college students, teachers, and families about the art of Mexican paper and felt flowers, folk dancing, and her beautiful bordado mágico. The bordado mágico, or magic embroidery, is a unique art form that Rita has mastered and is a type of complex embroidery considered “magical” because of the delicacy of its stitches. Rita has become well known for this work and has taught the special technique to individuals throughout the region who have reached out to her, including members of the renowned Aztec dance group Tláloc. In addition, she believes that all art forms are connected and she has been an active supporter of dance groups such as Danza Matachina Guadalupana and has provided them with context about the traditions that gave birth to their dances. She is a masterful teacher of traditional Mexican folk art and has been the featured artist for the Taller (workshop) at the DAM monthly program CelebrARTE as well as a featured artist in our recent Quilt Studio. Rita is also an exceptional storyteller—using not only the spoken word as a tool for self expression, but also her scissors, threads, multicolored fabrics, and nimble fingers to create her large three-dimensional stories on colgadores (wall hangers) with felt or paper. Rita has been invaluable in teaching her art and presenting her stories at the DAM’s after school programs at some of the branches of the Denver Public Libraries (DPL), helping in our mission of reaching out to the Latino community in particular.
It has been Rita’s commitment toward the community and her sincere appreciation for the human artistic creation that has allowed her to be so appreciated and well-loved. She credits her upbringing for inspiring her creativity. A native of Galeana, a town famous for its fruit groves in the northern state of Nuevo León, Mexico, she had the opportunity as a child to travel accompanying her father (who was a civil engineer) to several Mexican rural areas, where she had the chance to witness the folk art expressions of native peoples. Later on, she studied Mexican folk dance at Bellas Artes, the National Academy of Fine Arts in Mexico City. She is married to John Wallace, a teacher by profession, who shares her passion for Mexico and who has encouraged and supported her in all her endeavors.
Her love of culture is made manifest with each program she contributes to. This long and ever-growing list includes school tours, Mañanitas programs, CelebrARTE, Quilt Studio, after school programs at the DPL branches, Día del Niño and Our Lady of Guadalupe celebrations, all at the Denver Art Museum, as well as her participation at a variety of programs, community celebrations, teacher workshops, at cultural centers, elementary schools, and universities throughout the state of Colorado.
Rita has been recognized by the community and her peers throughout her career with a number of important awards, among them the Colorado Council of the Arts, Centro San Juan Diego’s Las Madrinas award, and the DPL’s Lena Archuleta Community Award. Most recently, she was awarded the prestigious Rex Morgan Award which recognizes the valuable contributions she has made to the art community within the Scientific and Cultural Facilities Districts (SCFD). I consider myself fortunate to have Rita as a collaborator and close friend. She is my spiritual connection to our native Mexico. She is one pillar that supports the cultural bridge of understanding and mutual cultural appreciation.