Now in its 18th year, the annual Day of the Dead exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center offers one of the most internationally diverse Día de los Muertos celebrations in the United States. Merging traditional Mexican altars with contemporary art installations, the exhibition presents an incredibly wide array of perspectives remembering, honoring, and celebrating the dead. Inspired by cherished relationships, current events, and personal and collective histories, more than 25 altars by over 60 participating Día de los Muertos artists build a dense environment of creativity that creates space for meaningful reflection and community engagement.
Chosen by father and son curators René & Rio Yañez, this year’s theme, Remembrance and Resistance emphasizes the importance of mourning in the context of resistance struggles. In the Trump era, the intense focus on political resistance can overshadow the need for collective mourning. Since its inception, Day of the Dead at SOMArts has offered a space for community reflection and remembrance, refusing to forget those who have been lost to police brutality, gentrification and displacement, and environmental destruction. Now more than ever, it’s imperative to honor the dead and reflect on their legacies. What can the lives of our ancestors teach us about resistance and creativity in the current political climate?
Remembrance and Resistance is dedicated to San Francisco activist Ebony McKinney, known by many for her tireless advocacy to advance equity in the arts through her work with the San Francisco Arts Commission and as co-founder of Arts for a Better Bay Area (ABBA) advocacy group. The exhibition is also dedicated to the generation of Americans known as Dreamers — To young people everywhere who are threatened by Trump administration policies, the exhibition will assert “You are welcome here.”
The exhibition unveiling, Friday, October 6, 6–9pm, $12–15 sliding scale admission, features music by San Francisco-based Caribbean fusion band LA GENTE and multi-disciplinary performance from the all-female group La Mezcla.
Exhibition highlights include painter and printmaker Xavier Viramontes who will contribute silkscreen prints from his “American Hero” series that highlight the invaluable contributions of immigrants to American culture.
Staff members from the San Francisco Arts Commission and SF Grants for the Arts will memorialize their beloved colleague Ebony McKinney with an altar, providing community members an opportunity to hear Ebony describe in her own words why the arts are so vital to building a society that works for all.
Highlighting the appropriation of Day of the Dead and Latinx culture to examine the gentrification of the Mission District, artist Ani Rivero Rossi will create a tableau of Día de los Muertos Barbie dolls. Artists Francis Li and Mark Hellar’s interactive installation will encourage visitors to contribute their own photos to create a digital mosaic portrait of contemporary and historic resistance leaders.
The Black Woman is God co-curators Karen Seneferu and Melorra Green will create an altar honoring the contributions of Black women as social change-makers, artists and activists throughout history.
Additional programming includes a Mission Salon dedicated to the cultural diversity of the Mission District on Friday, October 20, 6:00–9:00 pm curated by David Kubrin and featuring San Francisco poet laureate Kim Shuck, and the ticketed closing night party Thursday, November 9, 6:00–9:00 pm.
a group of JSUNS friends from SFAI
Adriana M. Garcia
Aja Archuleta & Heather Clark
Alexandra Blum, Cecile Robles-Blum & Calixto Robles
Alicia Cruz Hunt
Ana Rivero Rossi
Beth Benson & Brandy McDaniel
Brenda Rasmussen & Luna Olcott
Candi Farlice & Ann Schnake
Carla Caletti & Nikki Pratchios
chicXicana & Adelgadoart presents
Collective in honor of Luís Góngora Pat
Dean MacCannell & Juliet Flower MacCannell
Elizabeth Addison assisted by Mague Calanche
Emma Brown y Mara Lea Brown
Francis Li & Mark Hellar
Josephine Torio, Kate Rosenberg, Denise Sullivan & Chloe Villegas
Kathleen McDonald + Carmina Eliason
Katynka Martinez & Mia Gonzalez
Lia Tealdi, John Latham & Alice Latham
Melorra Green & Karen Seneferu
Michael Roman courtesy of Mike Dingle
Nick Gomez and Johnny Gonzalez
Robin Henderson & Jos Sances
Shizue Seigel & Ben Pease
Staff of the San Francisco Arts Commission & Grants for the Arts
Susana Aragón R
Veronica A. Rueda
Victor-Mario Zaballa & Las Calacas Atómicas
We are all Janet.
Friday, October 6, 6–9pm
$12–15 sliding scale admission
Exhibition unveiling features a Día de los Muertos inspired artist market and music by LA GENTE.
Friday, October 20, 6–9pm
$12–$15, no one turned away for lack of funds
Experience the cultural vibrancy of the Mission District with an interactive salon curated by David Kubrin and featuring San Francisco poet laureate Kim Shuck. Performances by Trio Cambio, Los Nadies, Josue Rojas, and Musical Art Quintet.
Thursday, November 9, 6–9pm
$7–10 sliding scale admission
The final opportunity to view and interact with the altars features live music by Candelaria and interactive installations.
Image credits (from top to bottom): Day of the Dead 2017, photo by J. Astra Brinkmann; Xavier Viramontes, Sanctuary print, image courtesy of the artist.