As the Bay Area prepares for the painful one-year anniversary of the Dec. 2 Ghost Ship warehouse fire, many have taken to existing local traditions for rituals of remembrance.
At San Francisco’s SOMArts, two of the altars in the institution’s 18th annual Día de los Muertos exhibition, Remembrance and Resistance, are dedicated to victims of the fire. And at the Oakland Museum of California, an altar made by Peter Foucault and Chris Treggiari for the museum’s Days of the Dead biennial bears the names of the 36 Ghost Ship victims, along with four names of those who lost their lives in the West Oakland apartment fire on March 27.
Foucault and Treggiari’s altar started taking shape soon after Dec. 2, 2016, at one of OMCA’s Friday Nights. They’d lost a collaborator in the fire: Alex Ghassan, a filmmaker who produced three videos for Treggiari’s Oakland, I want you to know... exhibition (and also worked frequently as an on-call producer for KQED Arts). As Oakland reeled in the wake of the event, OMCA invited visitors to fill out a cards “in memory of those lost.”
“A lot of that was just real, raw emotion,” says Evelyn Orantes, who curated Oakland, I want you to know... and the museum’s current Days of the Dead exhibition, Metamorphosis & Migration. “It was a week after the fire happened, and it was a rough period.”
Nearly a year later, the altar now on view in the museum bears the names of the 40 victims of both fires in stitched thread -- a painstaking undertaking completed in over 200 hours by Shannon Foucault, Peter's wife. Notes written since the show opened on Oct. 18 are now joining last year’s messages.
“People are contributing, but they're also reading,” Orantes says. “There's a dialogue that's going in through the spoken, the written, and the visual, and we want to be able to have a site where that exchange can happen. We hope this expands the dialogue in a meaningful way.”