Remembering René Yañez


Sitting in the back patio, usually late afternoon on a Saturday, and just in time to catch the last bit of sun before it dipped behind SOMArt’s Main Gallery, René and I would spend those moments talking, thinking and laughing. These conversations went everywhere from his opinions on the latest show to how the Mission is changing to what was going to happen next in the garden. Always open-minded and without compromising his integrity, values or sense of purpose, he had a gift for compassionate connection that allowed him to be fully authentic in his dialogue with you and that you, out of respect, wanted to match in return! René cared about community, art and creative expression. He was always looking at what’s new, what’s happening, and if he called to tell you about a show or event, you went. He was humble about his past and more excited about the “next” than the “last.” He invited others to collaborate and create, with no time for egos – his or yours. René lived in the present. In the garden he created at SOMArts he is always present.

Artist, curator, performer and activist René Yañez (b. Sept 19, 1942, Mexico) became an ancestor on May 29, 2018. Dubbed the “artistic Capo of the Bay Area Chicano movement” by writer and activist Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Rene introduced both Dia de los Muertos and Frida Kahlo to the Bay Area and is a founder of Galeria de la Raza, serving as its first Artistic Director.