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Episode 62 | Finding Empathy, Making Art

Suzanne Lacy talks to us about the role of art in the pursuit of social justice, and how to navigate the lines between art, activism, design and space.

Episode 62 | Finding Empathy, Making Art

About Suzanne Lacy
Suzanne Lacy is an American artist and activist whose career spans forty years, and has consistently tackled themes of gender violence, segregation, and other social justice issues.

Lacy has gained worldwide notoriety for many of her projects, but first came to international attention with “Three Weeks in May,” an exhibit in Los Angeles to highlight the epidemic of rape going on in the city. At that time, rape was a crime that was hard to discuss publicly. Even police officers who were working the rape cases were often disinclined to speak vocally or publicly about the issue. Through the nature of the exhibit, Lacy forced a public conversation – bringing the taboo into the spotlight. Like much of her work, the exhibit worked across media: the project involved a mapping component, but also a public performance piece at L.A. City Hall as well as self-defense classes for women.

This remains a recurring them in Lacy’s work – drawing public focus on issues which where theretofore on the margins. Lacy has tackled issues of rape, sexual violence, race & inequality. She’s also well known for focusing on issues related to women’s aging, and how society tends to render older women invisible. Several of her projects, like the Whisper, the Waves, the Wind, and its sequel, the Crystal Quilt, featured dramatic public performances involving hundreds of women. In each case, the purpose of the project was to cast deliberate gaze onto older women, their roles, their needs, their issues.

In addition to her work as an artist, Lacy has also inspired generations through educational positions, including serving as the Dean of Fine Arts at California College of the Arts from 1987 to 1997, and previously as the Arts Commissioner of Oakland, CA. She currently teaches at the University of Southern California.


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our sound engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Taryn Turner, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation, for pulling everything together.