Be Frida Kahlo Saturday Night, Without The Sadness

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Halloween is still five months away, but for all you costume-loving souls, Houston's Frida Festival is giving you a chance to play dress up already. The only catch? You have to dress up as Frida Kahlo.

The Houston Institute for Culture hosts the sixth installation of the festival, Raices de Frida (roots of Frida), on Saturday, May 15 at 8 p.m. There will be Kahlo-inspired works by 17 Houston artists, music by Karina Nistal, spoken word and an art auction, but one of the most entertaining parts of the night will be the Frida Look Alike contest that starts at 11 p.m.

"It's like a rainbow of Fridas. One year, there was a Japanese girl, an Indian girl (who actually won), an African American, a Caucasian and a Latina. They were all beautiful and different sizes. Everyone got into it.  It's become a big part of it because it gives people a chance to be part of the art themselves," Lizbeth Ortiz, founder of the festival tells Hair Balls.

The festival originally started as a birthday tribute to the Mexican visual artist Frida Kahlo but had such a turnout Ortiz turned it into an annual event.

"I don't think any of us had an idea that we would get that many people on a hot July day the first year," Ortiz remembers. "We've grown a lot since then."

Growth has brought a few event changes too.

"We split up the show this year. We're having opening and closing events instead of a whole day of events," Ortiz says. "The evening gala of the past will be the opening event and the family festival will be on June 12."

And the new venue comes with air-conditioning - a particularly enticing fact for festival attendees who have had to endure the heat of summer in the warehouse studios of the past.

Why so much Kahlo devotion?

"No only was she a great visual artist, she was such a strong character and admirable person for all the things that she endured and still kept on feeling her passion for life and art. That's inspiring," Ortiz says.

Called an ambassador of Mexican culture and the art, Kahlo was the first Latina woman to be honored with a U.S. postage stamp and her work was the first work by a 20th-century Mexican artist to be purchased by the Louvre museum.

"When you come to admire someone so much and study their work and their life, you find those connections to them every day without even looking for them, they're just kind of there and we want to honor that," Ortiz says.

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