Featherstone Center for the Arts has attracted an especially random group of Island artists for its new show, The Art of Personal Altars. This is not the usual show of landscape painters or photographers, sculptors or fabric artists — no such mundane grouping applies here. These personal altars cross all categories of the visual arts. Ann Smith, executive director at Featherstone, hopes this will be a new way for artists to express themselves. “We’ve had an incredible response,” she said.

For years Ms. Smith and her mother, Francine Kelly, former director at Featherstone, had talked about doing something based on the Day of the Dead celebrations in their home town of Indianapolis, Ind. The Indianapolis Arts Center has a full week of banquets and altar and shrine shows to celebrate the culture and traditions surrounding this Mexican holiday that celebrates family and friends who have died. The holiday is a joyful time, during which people decorate private altars honoring the deceased with skulls made from sugar, marigolds and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed.

Island artist Valerie Sonnenthal had talked to Ms. Smith and Ms. Kelly about filling the local storefronts withs displays of Day of the Dead altars, but Ms. Smith thought the Island wasn’t quite ready for that yet. Instead, Featherstone came up with something fun and different by asking artists to make altars with a personal theme. Emme Brown, gallery curator, wrote up the invitation to artists to create altars of different sizes, shapes and mediums, from matchbox to mixed media installations, from banners to collages. “While traditional altars are most commonly boxy, we challenge you to think flat, round, soft, etc. We hope this show will be a celebration, to spark discussion about one’s beliefs,” she wrote.

The result is work by offbeat artists alongside established Island artists working in more unconventional modes than usual. Some are regulars at Featherstone; others have been drawn in by the quirky nature of the show. Artist Richard Lee’s lush reverse painting on glass, Temptation of Virtue, hangs behind a pedestal draped with his dark red velour shirt upon which stands a gold-winged, golden-haired statue of Cupid, with a turtle carrying a crystal ball at his feet.

Creative stylist Patrice Donofrio’s altar, Offerings, is a meditative corner set up at the far end of the gallery. She says it’s a condensed version of what she usually has at her home — “a little corner of calm.” The eye rests on images and relics from various religious traditions: a small table holds a Buddha seated upon a golden platter beside a vase of live bamboo. Nearby are images of Mary and Jesus, piles of books from various spiritual traditions, and stones and other nature objects. A standing candelabra holds votive candles to light the scene.

Expect the unexpected at this show. As textile artist Paulette Hayes said: “There’s not a lighthouse in sight.” Her piece, Prayer Wheel, was created with the help of her husband, woodworker Nick Mosey. Three rotating drum wheels are suspended inside a long box, each one decorated with photos of family members, Tibetan script and painted magnified images of carrot seeds, skin tissue, and other plant and animal cells. “The prayer wheels are for our families, to bring good karma,” she said.

Edie Yoder’s altar is her kitchen butcher block table, around which many great conversations have taken place. It’s covered with vegetables both real and fake, surrounded by drawings inspired by those vegetables. “When you look at them to use for artistic creation, it doesn’t matter if they’re real or fake. What matters is on the paper, and there’s no difference between the two,” the artists said. “What I hope to show is a progression from picture to picture of what goes on in the creative mind of Edie Yoder.”

Kathy Rose used an old cabinet to hold her relics, the special things she’s collected over the years, including the actual headrest used by Gandhi for sleeping, left by Indian visitors to a show she did in Detroit in the 1960s. When Kathy researched the definition of altar, she found it was a place of sacrifice for the saints. “For me, the saints are nature. It’s my tribute to nature and the people I really, really revere Gandhi and Martin Luther King,” she said. Below her altar is a reliquary containing the complete bones of a little bird, weird-looking seeds, and a dead leaf that has been sitting on her dashboard for a month.

The show opens at the Virginia Weston Besse Gallery on Sunday, Oct. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m., and runs daily though Nov. 2. Other artists included in the show are: Fae Kontje-Gibbs, Kanta Lipsky, Darcie Lee Hanaway, Cindy Kane, Pam Flam, Jo-Anne Scotford Rice, Jannette Vanderhoop, Enid McEvoy, Sandra Grymes, Genevieve Jacobs, Colin Ruel, Karen Dutton, Marshall Pratt, and Beth Tveit.