On View at Field Work: Community Advice by Susan O’Malley

Susan O’Malley interviewed a few shy of 100 people in Palo Alto for this project. She asked: What advice would you give your 8-year-old self? What advice would you give your 80-year-old self? Using the words of those she met, she designed ten different letterpress posters. Sometimes the poster text is verbatim from the interview; other times she conflated several people’s advice into one. In addition to hanging the works in the opening exhibition at the Palo Alto Art Center, these posters were installed along Embarcadero Road in Palo Alto for passersby to see.

For this exhibition of the work at Field Work, the Art and Social Practice MFA program has displayed these pieces of advice in their neighborhood. The posters are displayed in the windows of Field Work, as well as in the windows of nearby organizations and businesses.

For more information on the project visit:


In her socially-based art practice, Susan O’Malley uses simple and recognizable tools of engagement – offering Pep Talks, asking for advice from strangers, installing roomfuls of inspirational posters, distributing flyers in neighborhood mailboxes, conducting doodle competitions at high schools – in order to offer entry points into the understood, and sometimes humorous, interactions of everyday life. Interested in shifting these otherwise mundane exchanges into heightened experiences, O’Malley’s projects rely on the backand- forth between herself and others in the creation of the artwork. Ultimately O’Malley’s projects aspire to incite hope, optimism and a sense of interconnectedness in our lives.

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, O’Malley received her MFA from California College of the Arts’ Social Practice Area. As both an artist and curator, she has participated in programs and exhibitions throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally in Denmark and Poland.