Susan Bruce O’Malley, 1976 to 2015

in by

Susan Bruce O’Malley passed away on February 25th.  She was just 38 years old.  The Berkeley resident was nine months pregnant with baby girls, Lucy and Reyna, when she died. The newborns were delivered by emergency cesarean section after O’Malley unexpectedly passed out and failed to regain consciousness. Her daughters expired shortly after their birth, but were alive long enough to be held in the loving arms of their father, Tim.

A San Jose native, O’Malley graduated from Presentation High School in 1995, earned her bachelor of arts in urban studies from Stanford University in 1999, and received a master of fine arts in social practices from the California College of the Arts in 2006.

As an artist O’Malley produced prints, posters, buttons, large-scale vinyl signage and billboards, as well as other media.   Her work was often spawned from conversations, and revolved around participatory exchanges, public art and positive messaging.  It inspired hope, optimism and interconnectivity. 

“In a world bogged down daily by trauma in the media, [O’Malley] was a covert revolutionary with her bright colors, inspirational messages, encouragement, enthusiasm, and genuine personality,” said Christian Frock, a friend and colleague of O’Malleys.

O’Malley’s works have been displayed at The Romer Young Gallery, Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, Art Moves Billboard Festival in Poland, and the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, where she was also curator and print center director.  She was previously an artist-in-residence at Montalvo Art Center. Last month the San Francisco Arts Commission meeting at City Hall closed in honor of O’Malley to publicly acknowledge her contributions to the Bay Area arts community.

O’Malley is survived by her husband, Tim Caro-Bruce; her siblings, Patricia Kirsch (Angela Greene) and her sons Gibson and Garrett; Sean O’Malley (Mae O’Malley) and his sons Max, Tai, and Matteo; Mara Boord (Steve Boord) and her children Regan, Diego, and Maggie; Ellen Kato (Darryl Kato) and her daughter Penelope; and Sharon Figueroa (Israel Figueroa); her father Patrick O’Malley; her parents-in-law, Calvin and Cathy Caro-Bruce; and her sister-in-law Emily Caro-Bruce (Jason Disterhoft) and her sons Calvin and Isaac.  Susan’s mother, Lupita Reyna O’Malley, preceded her in death.

A memorial service was held on March 9th at the Villa Montalvo in Saratoga; a public celebration of her life and contributions as an artist and curator took place on March 22nd at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to the Susan O’Malley Memorial Fund for the Arts in support of emerging artists. The fund will help commission a permanent installation of O’Malley’s work. For more information: