ArtCentral: The Art in Halloween

By Elizabeth Freer
Matthews Opera House, ArtCentral Manager

Elizabeth Freer, ArtCentral Mgr.

On Halloween, we have permission to be creative, innovative, and even afraid. We reward the efforts that are put into decorating ourselves in costumes and our homes or offices with the spooky and delightful. It is a season where we face and taunt our own fears, real and imagined, and know that we are supposed to be afraid.

We’re free on Halloween to be whatever we want; there is no judgment of who you want to be. It only has to be right for one day. Halloween is a day where we are free to be creative, to invent, and experiment. Is participation what we savor most on Halloween?

We celebrate bending the constraints that we hold ourselves to the rest of the year: humans become non-humans – cartoons or inanimate objects; young become old – old become young; delineations between past and future become irrelevant; the gender of costume and wearer are not expected to correlate, and we celebrate the weird and wacky.

We tell stories of haunted legends. Fear is tickled. Are there stories that you told as a child, and continue to develop and share? The plot thickens every year. The art of storytelling is alive and well in October!

We build haunted houses – dark and spooky places filled with things that mimic and tease our fears and imagination. Mummies coming to life, ghosts jumping out from the shadows, spiders, bats, and our insides spilling out.

Even those who proclaim to not be creative may find joy in carving a pumpkin and watching it transform into a jack-o-lantern. Like each of us, each transformed pumpkin is wonderfully unique ranging from timid, frightful, cheery, eerie, to sick (have you seen a vomiting pumpkin?). Some plan the design, and others just dive right in and start carving. We adore seeing the individuality!

The creative energy around Halloween is spectacular. So is the community spirit and the generosity: we watch out for the kids going trick-or-treating; we create safe spaces to enjoy the celebrations in community centers and parking lots; we host parties in our homes and restaurants; we donate food; we freely give away treats, smiles, and compliments.

We welcome strangers to our door dressed in an array of attire (even the ugly, odd, and scary!), place a little treat in their bag, compliment their efforts, treat them kindly, smile, and wish them safe journeys. Does the spirit of Halloween make you want to giggle and talk to the person dressed in that outrageous costume? Would we feel the same way in the middle of March?

What would happen if some of the spirit of Halloween oozed into the rest of the year? Maybe the ghosts, goblins, and mummies stay in October, but we could carry on with believing that we are creative and that the act of making is enjoyable and valuable.

ArtCentral is a community collaboration, funded by a 2016 Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant, to centralize the arts as an integrated asset for inclusivity, economic development, and outreach in Spearfish. As this is a community-based project, we welcome feedback and suggestions, as well as volunteers. Please contact us by email at [email protected] if you are interested in volunteering or have suggestions.

ArtCentral is a community collaboration, funded by a 2016 Bush Foundation Community Innovation Grant, to centralize the arts as an integrated asset for inclusivity, economic development, and outreach in Spearfish. As this is a community-based project, we welcome feedback and suggestions, as well as volunteers. Please contact us by email at [email protected] if you are interested in volunteering or have suggestions.


Lead by Elizabeth Freer, ArtCentral manager at The Matthews, the project brings together a committee of advocates, artists, and residents working together over two years to create a new model for arts planning and outreach, focusing on the themes of belonging, inclusion, equity, rural connectedness, cultivating creativity, imagining space, and the arts as a community development catalyst.

“I am excited for this opportunity to work in Spearfish with The Matthews on this innovative and important project to advance the arts in our community,” stated Freer. “I encourage local residents who are interested in participating in this process to apply to be a part of the committee.”