fig. 34: In Mourning and in Rage
Media event memorial for Victims of Hillside Strangler
Los Angeles, CA, 1977, © Suzanne Lacy
I have worked collaboratively since the early 1970s. My experience includes collaborations with other artists and more broadly conceived "collaborations" with people in various communities and occupations. In the 1970's, for example, I collaborated with Evalina Newman, an older African American woman in Watts (Los Angeles), engaging others in her housing complex in exhibitions on crime. I also collaborated with Kathleen Chang, an actress in San Francisco, in a performance on Chinese immigration and women. In a series of large urban installations on violence against women, I broadened the collaborative process to include police, politicians, hotline activists and reporters, creating together multi-sited works that address social issues.
Since 1991, I have worked with many collaborators on various projects under the acronym TEAM (Teens + Educators + Artists + Media Makers). These projects have focused on direct engagement with youth and with policies and services that affect youth, primarily in Oakland, California. The mission of TEAM is to produce socially oriented public performance and multimedia installation art that develops inner-city youth participation in public policy, has a direct and positive impact on mass media images of urban young people, and promotes theory and practice demonstrating how art affects social change.
We implement our mission by producing performances and installations that function as public hearings to advance policy impacting young people; by training adolescents in media literacy and art production that contradicts mass media stereotypes; by forming collaborations between youth, artists, policy makers, and workers in the justice, health, and education systems; and by documenting and distributing our work on television, through public lectures, in galleries, on videotape, and in articles and books.
Examples of this work include "The Roof is on Fire," an installation of parked cars on a rooftop garage including the participation of more than 200 teens and "Youth, Cops, and Videotape," a workshop that continues to be used in police training. In 1997, we produced "No Blood/No Foul," an installation of murals, television interviews and a live basketball game between youth and police that was widely covered on television news. This artwork, created with the cooperation of the Oakland Police Department, was not only meant to increase awareness of youth issues, but tolerance of each group for the other.
Oakland, California - with its history of political activism, diversity and culture - is the site of a developing public voice for youth. With a public school population of 55% African American, 20% Latino/a, 20% Asian American, and 5% European American students, Oakland is a nationally recognized center for urban youth culture. Media stars Danny Glover, M.C. Hammer, Tom Hanks and rappers Toni Tony Ton-e all emerged from this vibrant cultural scene. Paradoxically, Oakland youth are also beset with high rates of violent crime, poverty and school drop-out.
While working with issues of youth and the criminal justice system, I encountered how the health care institutions also figured prominently in teen's lives. From teen pregnancy to gunshot wounds to depression, the health concerns of today's youth are symptomatic of dysfunctional environments. Girls and women, in particular, are affected by health issues. "Expectations" will be a first work in what I hope will be an investigation of youth health through art. This project is critical to a several year effort to determine in what ways art can affect public policy. In the case of teen pregnancy and welfare reform, it is obvious that public attitude is greatly shaping policies that directly effect Bay Area youth.
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All text © Suzanne Lacy.