On 10 May 1987 in Minneapolis, 430 women over the age of 60 gathered to share their views on growing older. The resulting performance, The Crystal Quilt, was broadcast live on television and attended by over 3,000 people.
It was the culmination of the Whisper Minnesota Project, a three-year public artwork empowering and giving a voice to older women. The process was consciously guided by a desire to represent diverse ethnic and social backgrounds alongside life experience and achievements, forming an active comment on the representation of older women in the media. Lacy has stated: ‘In some sense The Crystal Quilt was successful politically, in that the work was bigger, it had more social impact in that region, but do one or two events ever change the way people – other than those who directly experience it – see? This raises this issue of whether you can expect art to create social change, and at what point is it no longer art.’
The Crystal Quilt now exists in the form of a video, documentary, quilt, photographs and sound piece, combining the original elements of performance, activism and broadcast in an ambitious work that fuses social responsibility with the power of aesthetics: something Suzanne Lacy has pioneered in her long career as activist artist, writer and teacher.
The Crystal Quilt took place at the IDS Center Crystal Court, Minneapolis, and was broadcast by KTCA television. Suzanne Lacy collaborated with Phyllis Jane Rose, Miriam Schapiro, Nancy Dennis and Susan Stone.
Suzanne Lacy (born 1945, USA) has worked collaboratively with artists and communities since the 1970s. In 1991 she founded TEAM (Teens + Educators + Artists + Media Makers) with photographer Chris Johnson and producer Annice Jacoby. A writer she edited the influential Mapping the Terrain: New Genre Public Art in 1995, a book that prefigured much current writing on politically relevant performance art. Lacy was Dean of the School of Fine Arts at the California College of Arts from 1987 to 1997, between 1996 and 1997 she co-founded the Visual and Public Art Institute at California State University at Monterey Bay with artist Judith Baca, and in 1998 she became Founding Director of the Center for Art and Public Life. She is currently the Chair of Graduate Public Practice at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles.
Part of the series The Tanks: Art in Action