Día de los Muertos

SOMArts’ annual Day of the Dead exhibition, beginning in mid-October and concluding around the time of the holiday itself, is a beloved and uniquely San Francisco event. Curated by René Yañez and Rio Yañez with assistance from architect Nick Gomez, the event features work by more than 70 artists each year.

Day of the Dead is a celebration that is continually in transition, especially under the mentorship of curators René and Rio Yañez who have encouraged artists to extend beyond the traditional altar. The father and son team challenge artists to use their creative visions to look at personal loss, as well as local and global issues. In past years artists have created installations about contemporary issues including health care, the presidential election and neighborhood violence.

In previous years 30 classrooms from 16 different Bay Area public and private schools (elementary to high school) have visited SOMArts to learn about the traditional and contemporary celebrations of Día de los Muertos. The students are given a docent tour of the gallery exhibition. In addition, SOMArts creates a black light room, where students make art inspired by the iconography and traditions surrounding Day of the Dead in a room that glows.

SOMArts’ 17th annual Día de los Muertos exhibition will open on Friday, October 7, 2016 with a public reception from 6:00–9:00 pm, and will run through Saturday, November 5. 

A Promise Not to Forget is dedicated to artist and activist Sylvia Parra and to curator René Yañez’s departed partner Cynthia Wallis. Known as Mamacoatl, Parra introduced the United Nations Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to San Francisco. An artist in her own right, Wallis was a photographer and theater director for the Asian American Theater Company in San Francisco. This theme is also a call to respond to recent incidents of violence — from Orlando to Baton Rouge and Minneapolis. To honor people who have unnecessarily lost their lives and to look towards the future we want to make for ourselves.

Learn more about the theme of this year’s Day of the Dead exhibition and exhibiting artists here!


For more information about how you can volunteer as a docent, participate as an artist or support SOMArts’ Day of the Dead exhibition with your donations, email info@somarts.org.

Recent exhibitions include:

October 9–November 7, 2015 | Today is the Shadow of Tomorrow: Día de los Muertos | Photos

October 11–November 8, 2014 | Visions at Twilight: Día de los Muertos | Photos

October 12–November 9, 2013 | Imagining Time, Gathering Memory: Día de los Muertos | Photos

October 13–November 10, 2012 | Calling on the Spirits to Face the Future: Día de los Muertos | Photos

October 8–November 5, 2011 | Illuminations: Día de los Muertos | Photos

October 8–November 6, 2010 | Honoring Revolution with Visions of Healing: Día de los Muertos | Photos

October 16–November 7, 2009 | Altars for the Spirits/Offerings for the Living: Día de los Muertos | Photos

Image credit: Overview of gallery, Today is the Shadow of Tomorrow: Dia de los Muertos 2015, photo by J. Astra Brinkmann