In many cultures, masks serve many functions, including religious and cultural ceremonies and other celebrations.

The Cultural Coalition’s 4th Annual Mask Alive Festival will spotlight different culture and performance groups from the valley who use masks with a full-day event full of music, dancing and puppets, as well as food trucks and craft activities.

This year’s festival takes place from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday, September 19 at Pioneer Park in Mesa. This marks a return to an in-person event after the festival was held online last year.

Carmen Guerrero, Executive Director of Cultural Coalition, explains that the festival brings together different arts and culture groups to help them and community members get to know each other and develop an appreciation for one another.

“There are so many ethnic groups who use masks who live here in our community, who don’t have the opportunity to showcase their art or even perform together,” Guerrero said.

The event includes interactive activities, a mask parade

Many eight-foot-tall masks and puppets on display at the Mask Alive Festival were made by local mask maker Zarco Guerrero.

During the event, local artist Felipa Lerma, the Museum of Ideas and the Cultural Coalition will offer interactive activities for young people, including making paper masks.

Guerrero said one of the coalition’s goals is to involve children in the arts.

“We want everything to be activities that inspire kids to find their passions in the arts, whether it’s the performing arts or the visual arts,” Guerrero said.

The festival will end with a mask parade, during which participants will be able to show off different types of creative masks. Performers wearing masks and puppeteers handling large-scale sculptural puppets will also participate in the parade.

During the event, festival-goers can don their most stylish or fun masks.

“Even though the city says that as long as it’s in an open space, and they keep a social distance, the masks aren’t mandatory, we actually encourage people to bring their creative COVID masks,” Guerrero said. .

During the festival, different groups and artists will wear masks during their performances. Some have cultural significance while others are more artistic in nature.

The festival will include a variety of live performances

This year’s festival lineup will include dancers from Ballet Folklorico Quetzalli, dancers from the Astarte belly dance troupe, African musicians and dancers from Sankofa, mariachis from Desert Sounds and Brazilian martial artists / performers Ax Capoeira.

Ken Koshio, a local taiko drummer, will wear a traditional style of Japanese mask when he performs.

During the Mask Alive Festival, taiko drummer Ken Koshio will wear a traditional Japanese style mask.

Many of the masks featured in the festival, including those worn by Koshio and folk ballet dancers, were made by local mask maker, sculptor and performer Zarco Guerrero.

Guerrero created sculptural masks and puppets for different dance, theater and culture groups in the valley.

He is best known for the calacas, or colorful skull masks, which he made for local Dia de Los Muertos celebrations. He also creates eight foot tall puppets or processional sculptures.

He started making masks about 40 years ago. He says a number of mask-making traditions have existed here historically or have been brought to Arizona from Mexico and other countries.

Through the festival, the coalition will spotlight artists and groups with a rich history of mask making.

“The idea is not only to celebrate the mask-making heritage that we have established in the valley, but also to seek out and help other cultures that have these traditions and need a place to interpret them.” , Guerrero said.

Dancers will wear colorful calaca masks made by Zarco Guerrero during the Mask Alive festival.

He said it’s ultimately the people who wear the masks who help bring them to life.

Guerrero, who has studied Japanese, Mexican, Alaskan and Balinese mask-making techniques, said that in different cultures, masks have different meanings. They are used for rituals, storytelling, music and dance performances, theater and other contexts.

“Each culture has a different reason for doing it. I would say most of the time they are made for ceremonies and rituals, “he said.” When we do them, we do them to honor ancestral cultures. The masks represent our ancestors. In the case of Mexico and Japan, say, these countries are very prolific in the manufacture and use of masks.

“But a lot of that has been forgotten. A lot of it is lost. When we forget to use masks or don’t use masks, we erase generations and generations of this cultural tradition that has been passed down. . That’s what we want to do. We want to keep the culture alive in our community. “

The coalition will raffle a handmade Guerrero mask during the festival. Online raffle tickets cost $ 20 each or $ 100 for six entries. The winner will be announced during the festival.

Festival of Living Masks

When: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, September 19.

Or: Pioneer Park, 526 E. Main St., Mesa.

Admission: To free.

Details: coalitionculturelle.com.

Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.