“Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World,” a five-month outdoor sculpture exhibition featuring dozens of whimsical creatures inspired by Mexican folklore, transforms the grounds at Cantigny Park in Wheaton from June 1 through Oct. 30.
The partnership between Cantigny Park, the DuPage Convention & Visitors Bureau, Mexican Cultural Center DuPage and the city of West Chicago hosts the event, with a festive public celebration planned Sunday, June 12.
“This installation is a work of love and born from the passion for art and the beautiful cultural traditions of Mexico,” Fernando Ramirez, president and founder of Mexican Cultural Center DuPage, said in a news release. “[With the show] created entirely by hand, and staged in the exceptional setting of Cantigny Park, visitors will truly experience the magic that is alebrijes.”
The word alebrijes (pronounced ah-leh-bree-hehs) refers to imaginary creatures that possess elements from different animals. They originated in the 1930s from the vivid dreams of Mexico City artist Pedro Linares. The artistic tradition of alebrijes gained popular exposure in the United States with “Coco,” the 2017 Disney/Pixar film.
About 48 alebrijes sculptures – some up to 14 feet tall – were created by six artists from Mexico City who participate annually in the internationally known “La Noche de los Alebrijes,” a parade and festival in Mexico City for Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). The artists are on site and will stay in DuPage County through early July, demonstrating their skills at the park and making appearances in the community.
The sculptors, ages 30 to 59, were recruited by the Mexican Cultural Center DuPage to create the alebrijes for Cantigny. They spent months designing and building them. The artists include master crafts-person Perla Miriam Salgado Zamorano, who describes her work as “jazzy, colorful and different”; Alejandro Camacho Barrera, also a toy maker, who characterizes his style as “magical realism”; Alberto Moreno Fernández, who uses imagination and nature as major inspirations for his work; Roberto Carlos Martinez, who enjoys muralism and draws his inspiration from people, places and dreams; Edgar Israel Camargo Reyes, who explores new techniques in cartoneria (papier-mâché sculptures); and Emmanuel Arturo Zárate Ortiz, whose work is influenced by an appreciation of geometry and architecture.
The exhibit is supported by extensive public and educational programming ranging from studio demonstrations and talks by the artists to lectures about Mexican heritage and culture. In addition, Cantigny anticipates numerous special events, such as themed garden tours and dinners, concerts by Mexican musicians, and art workshops for children.
The McCormick Foundation, Cantigny’s parent organization, awarded a grant to the Mexican Cultural Center DuPage to help make “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World” possible. Additional support is being provided by the National Museum of Mexican Art and Mexico City.
Cantigny Park is the 500-acre Wheaton estate of Robert R. McCormick (1880-1955). It is home to the McCormick House, First Division Museum, display gardens, picnic grounds, walking trails, and a Visitors Center with a gift shop, theater, and food options. The lineup of events is posted at Cantigny.org.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World”
WHERE: Cantigny Park, 1S151 Winfield Road, Wheaton
WHEN: 7 a.m. to sunset daily through Oct. 30
COST: Included with regular parking fee: $5 per car on weekdays, $10 on weekends