Suzane Lacy (born 1945, American artist, educator, and writer) is one of the few to have combined performance art, activism and youth work and, even more so, to have properly documented this work.
For over a decade, between 1991 to 2001 she has worked on , a community performance art project together with TEAM (Teens, Educators, Artists, Media Makers) members. The project, very simple in terms of it`s poroposition – audience listening to young people discussions about police brutality, social injustice, education, and other social issues – had long lasting effects that went beyond consciousness-raising amongst participants around the issues; it went all the way to the formation of Oakland, California’s first youth policy. Throught the staged discussions in the project, the young people participating did not ‘perform’ in the traditional sense, but instead mirrored the social stereotypes that they saw within in their community.
Beyond her work and art practice, the researcher and documented of most of the work was initiated not to make any past art event present but rather to potentially offer an extra support for a politically critical art with and for young people.
In the artwork and in the relation between artist and young person, the work always starts from the position of the young person and does not follow formal standards of quality or atchivement: “Some artists work with youth experience, as told to them by the youth, but frame or execute the container or delivery system for that content. Some artisits teach skills to the youth, but they actually finish the video edit, frame the painting, organise the screening and so on. Still others teach, and allow the youth to frame, make, and present the work – however imature – with supportive mentoring. (…) criteria for effective youth development activity as measured by youth themselves: develop ethos for achivement and learning, distribute responsibility of youth roles, exercise skill in identifying resources for use in art making and in dealing with contingencies of art production, prioritise peer critique, collaboration, problem solving and conditional reasoning, combine work and play and prominently feature text produced by youth.“
Her thoghts and on youth art work are topical today and can be found either on her webpage http://www.suzannelacy.com/the-oakland-projects/ or critically self-analysed, or troughout her book Leaving Art: Writings on Performance, Politics, and Publics, 1974–2007.