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Suzanne Lacy

Suzanne Lacy is an American artist and activist who uses her work to tackle themes of gender violence, segregation, and other issues related to social justice. Her work combines “social practice art,” intended to involve communities in discussion or debate, and “new genre public art,” which is her term for public art that is created outside institutional structures to engage directly with an audience.

A former student of the iconic feminist artist, Judy Chicago, Suzanne Lacy first drew international attention with “Three Weeks in May,” an extended performance piece exhibited in May 1977 and later reenacted in 2013.  For the piece, she placed a large map of LA in the public shopping mall near City Hall. Every day for three weeks, she went to the police department’s central office to obtain the rape reports from the previous day and stamped them on the map. Additionally, she and a group of collaborators produced thirty events around LA, all relating to the theme of rape, garnering significant television and print media coverage for a topic normally considered taboo. 

This integrated, publicly confrontational approach is a recurring theme in Lacy’s work, drawing focus onto previously marginalized issues. In addition to rape, she has also tackled sexual violence, racism, aging, and class inequalities. Several of her projects, including Whisper, the Waves, the Wind, and its sequel, The Crystal Quilt, feature dramatic public performances involving hundreds of older women, focusing on the roles, needs, and inequities of gender and aging. More recent work in the United Kingdom has focused on bringing together Muslim and Christian communities in an abandoned mill to create a performance, resulting in a multiscreen video installation. 

Lacy’s work has been displayed at multiple major institutions. In 2019, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts held her first major retrospective. In addition to her work as an artist, Lacy has also inspired generations through her writing and her 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, Roski School of Art and Design. 

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62 | Finding Empathy, Making Art


Social Design Insights would like to thank all those who make our weekly show possible: Baruch Zeichner, our Producer and Sound Engineer, Donna Read, for producing our video content, and Leah Freidenrich, Director of the Curry Stone Foundation. Our theme music for 2018 is "Alright With Me" by Reggie Young from his album "Young Street." The break music is "Ordinary People" by Basia Trzetrzelewska from her album "London Warsaw New York."