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All images ©The Estate of Susan O’Malley

Community Advice 

Exhibition Dates: October 1-December 31

Location: Embarcadero Road alongside the Palo Alto Art Center

The Palo Alto Art Center, the Palo Alto Public Art Program and the Estate of artist Susan O’Malley have joined forces to present Susan O’Malley’s Community Advice Project, featuring a series of three colorful, radically positive, oversized posters outside the Art Center along Embarcadero Road. The large artworks will be installed beginning October 1, 2020.

The project was originally commissioned by the Palo Alto Art Center for the Community Creates exhibition in 2012. This revisitation of the project will feature three specific Community Advice posters, along with a reprinting of select posters for community engagement projects.Community Advice showcases Susan O’Malley’s timeless work in a current context of social unrest, disconnection, and community fragmentation.

“We feel strongly that the community needs this project more than ever,” says Art Center Director Karen Kienzle. “The positive, uplifting messages in these works remind us of our very best selves and encourage empathy, kindness, optimism, and love.”

City of Palo Alto Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo adds, “The power of public art to stimulate discussion and bring communities together at this difficult time cannot be underestimated. We hope that viewers will connect with O’Malley’s uplifting work and ask themselves what advice they might give to others and why.”

Susan O’Malley was commissioned to create Community Advice in 2012 in conjunction with the Palo Alto Art Center’s grand reopening exhibition Community Creates. As part of the project, O’Malley interviewed around 100 people in Palo Alto asking, “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, O’Malley designed ten different letterpress posters. Sometimes the text was used verbatim from the interview; other times she conflated several people’s advice into one. In addition to hanging in the gallery, the posters were installed on electrical poles along Embarcadero Road.

Susan O’Malley previously remarked, “I wanted to create this project because I think it’s easy to forget how wise we can be. We resist our internal wisdom because of fear, fatigue, inconvenience, or any number of reasons. Also, I like to hear other people’s advice. It reminds me that we are different versions of each other trying to make our way through this life.  And sometimes other people’s words magically express exactly what I’m thinking, but can’t seem to pull together. Here in the Silicon Valley, I think this is particularly true as we hurl ourselves into fast-paced lives. We feel detached from one another and even to ourselves.”

O’Malley also shared, “While the posters range from earnest declarations to funny observations, I think there is a deepness of experience present in these simple phrases. My hope is that these community-authored public service announcements will reflect back–even if momentarily–our inner brilliance and perhaps allow a brief space to gently listen to our own advice.”

A new edition of the posters created for the Community Advice project by Horwinksi Printing Company in Oakland will be distributed to senior communities and to schools participating in our Project Look virtual school tour program.

Susan O’Malley’s Community Advice is a presentation of the Estate of Susan O’Malley, the Palo Alto Art Center, and the Palo Alto Public Art Program. The project is generously supported by the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation, the Palo Alto Public Art Program, and Pamela and David Hornik.

About Susan O’Malley:
Susan O’Malley
 (1976–2015) was an internationally exhibited artist and curator based in the San Francisco Bay Area. From posters to pep talks, billboards to vending machines, O’Malley’s art uses simple and recognizable tools of engagement to connect people to one another. In her Advice from My 80-Year-Old Self project, she interviewed people of all ages and transformed their words into bold artwork that has been shared widely as a book, prints, and public installations.

O’Malley’s work has been exhibited in public projects across the United States—San Francisco, New York, Nashville—and around the globe in the United Kingdom, Poland, and Denmark. Her work has been exhibited at alternative spaces and cultural institutions, including SFMOMA, Oakland Museum of California, the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the San Diego Airport, the Montalvo Art Center, Kala Art Institute, and Palo Alto Art Center. Her participatory installation Finding Your Center, was featured at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. O’Malley’s project “A Healing Walk” is permanently installed at the Montalvo Arts Center. 

About the Palo Alto Art Center:
The Palo Alto Art Center is your place to see and make art, activate your creativity, and expand your community. Created by the community, for the community in 1971, the Palo Alto Art Center provides an accessible and welcoming place to engage with art. We serve approximately 150,000 people every year through a diverse range of programs.

The Palo Alto Art Center, Division of Arts and Sciences, City of Palo Alto is funded in part by grants from Silicon Valley Creates and the Palo Alto Art Center Foundation. The Palo Alto Art Center Foundation gratefully acknowledges support from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Yellow Chair Foundation, private donations, and members.

About the Public Art Program:
The City of Palo Alto Public Art Program is committed to contributing to the intellectual, emotional, and creative life of the Palo Alto community by creating engaging art experiences and dynamic public spaces for Palo Alto residents and visitors. For more information go to



To learn more about our upcoming exhibitions, view our Advanced Exhibition Schedule.