Immerse in the magic of Mexican folk art with alebrijes exhibit in Elgin

Colorful, fantastical creatures that escaped the imaginations of five Mexican artists have found a home in the real world at the Gail Borden Library in Elgin.

More than 100 people attended a ribbon cutting Tuesday to celebrate the opening of “Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World,” which runs through January 2024.

“When I look at these alebrijes, it really exemplifies the beauty of the Hispanic culture,” state representative Anna Moeller told attendees. “It once again reinforces what a beautiful community we have here.”

Previously at Cantigny Park, the exhibit features 20 papercraft creatures — eight large and 12 smaller figures — by Mexican artists Alejandro Camacho Barrera, Perla Miriam Salgado Zamorano, Roberto Carlos Martinez Tecillo, Edgar Camargo Reyes and Alberto Moreno Fernández.

Fernando Ramirez, president and founder of the Mexican Cultural Center-DuPage, dreamed up the exhibit for Cantigny as a celebration of Mexican folk art, never thinking that the exhibit would last beyond its run there.

“People got connected to them at Cantigny above and beyond what we expected,” he said. “So we thought, how do we continue seeing these pieces maybe in a different way.”

That involved undoing the damage caused by the elements to the creatures and finding a way to make them fit indoors.

“What the artists will tell you is that the life of the alebrije is supposed to end. They're not supposed to be here that long,” Ramirez said. “They're supposed to be a representation of life, and you need to cherish that. If you like that piece, come and see it as many times as you can because tomorrow it could be gone.”

The alebrijes (pronounced ah-leh-bree-hehs), which stem from Mexican folklore highlighted in the movie “Coco,” are placed throughout the library at 270 N. Grove Ave. in Elgin.

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  "Goliath" by Edgar Camargo Reyes greets guests as they go upstairs at the Gail Borden Library in Elgin. "Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World" will be on display at the library until January 2024. Rick West/
  "Alebrijes: Creatures of a Dream World" will be on display at the Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin until January 2024. Rick West/
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