These 11 Day of the Dead Altars From a San Francisco Art Show Will Give You Life

Altars are a symbol of prayer

Photo: Instagram/emma_t_brown

Photo: Instagram/emma_t_brown

Altars are a symbol of prayer. They are, in essence, where we go, kneel, and make a request to God. They are at the core of what Day of the Dead is all about. While we’re still weeks away from this annual Latino tradition, several places – in particular galleries and public spaces – have already begun their Day of the Dead shows. SOMArts, a gallery in San Francisco, has been producing Day of the Dead shows with massive altar installation for the past 18 years.

This year, with so much heartbreak, social injustice, and violent deaths, their show is more powerful than ever. Their theme is “Remembrance and Resistance” and is curated by father and son curators René and Rio Yañez. “In the Trump era, the intense focus on political resistance can overshadow the need for collective mourning,” the curators state on their website. “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?”

One of the most beautiful aspects of this holiday, and the altars, is that there’s not a correct way to celebrate it. There’s no one way to create altar. The process of building it is a personal one, which is why each one is so unique and beautiful.

Each altar in this show speaks to their own struggles, their own mourning, their own wishes and prayers. The show features 25 altars constructed and built by more than 60 artists. The exhibition is on view now through Nov. 9 at 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco. For more information on this show visit

Here’s a brief look at just some of these amazing altars from this show.

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