Stephanie Dillon channels her creativity to make a difference

Minneapolis-based artist Stephanie Dillon found her purpose after being diagnosed with breast cancer and now leads a life devoted to creating art that speaks on controversial topics important to her.


Image by Savannah Brennan

Courtesy photo.

by Grace Davis

From appearances in major publications like Vogue, Wired, GQ, The World of Interiors and Chelsea Life to her recent appointment as a Rolling Stone Culture Council member, Stephanie Dillon’s story is colorful.

Dillon’s journey has led her to become a mixed-media artist, philanthropist and advocate for change, operating out of her gallery studio space in St. Louis Park. Dillon is dedicated to making art on canvases and clothing that already exist. Her mantra: “Old is beautiful; what exists is enough, and art is everywhere.”

What separates Dillon from other artists is her story, said Summer Kath, a colleague and friend.

Dillon’s story includes her past with addiction and sobriety today. In December 2016, an unexpected diagnosis came her way: breast cancer.

Dillon said it wasn’t until she was diagnosed with breast cancer that she asked herself the daunting question, “What do I want to leave behind?”

“I think I was compelled to find a space in which I could leave something behind that also was about cultivating my own creativity in the process — and also emotionally. Navigating the feelings that I was experiencing, it was sort of like finding my magic,” Dillon said.

Finding her magic was a journey that brought forth important values to Dillon. In Dillon’s art, she strives to reflect on beliefs like caring about other people’s greater good and the environment at large. Keeping in line with this mission, everything she creates has been preloved.

Dillon’s artistic endeavors range from mixed-media canvas art to clothing. She creates collections of reinvented clothes for her clothing company, Citizen-T. Each piece, selected from landfills and secondhand stores, is reimagined as a canvas for her art, and she gives a portion of all the proceeds to charity. Citizen-T dedicates itself to reinventing the idea of “new is better.”

“Who wants the same t-shirt that 800 million people have? So, I just thought, “There has to be a marketplace for what they call ‘slow fashion,’” right — the idea that you can take an old t-shirt from the dump and rescue it. And then I thought, ‘Well, I’m an artist, so why not put art on it?’” Dillon said.

Morgan Kelly, a University of Minnesota student and intern for Dillon, spoke highly of her artistic philosophy.

“She is 100% hell-bent on changing the world for the better, whether it be environmentally, socially or politically. She is driven by progress and compassion,” Kelly said.

Dillon believes everyone has the power to be a changemaker.

“There are a lot of things that you guys can do to implement change immediately — the amount of water and carbon you save just by rescuing one piece of clothing. Can you imagine, if the entire student body of the 50,000 students [each] rescued one t-shirt, what you guys would be doing for the environment?” Dillon said, referring to University of Minnesota students.

“Besides pointing out what needs to be done, the most important thing that you can do is implement change,” Dillon added.