banner.png

Dinner pARTies

 
 

Dinner pARTies

Experience Design / Community Impact / Art / Advertising / Social Research 

DSC_0416.JPG

Overview
Dinner pARTy is a community research project investigating and exploring unique ways of fostering diversity and inclusion within and beyond Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) through dinner parties. 

Role
I am the Visual Designer. I also help create the dinner party experiences. 

Teammates
I work with Daniel See, Nick Boston, and Sarah Stinson-Hurwitz

Duration
An ongoing year long project. This is a work in progress.

Outcomes
This project is made possible by the School of Art's Interdisciplinary Grant and Carnegie Mellon's SURG Research grant. We have so far conducted two experimental dinners. There are 3 more planned for the Spring. 

 

 
 

A Work in Progress

The research is being conducted through a series of experimental dinner events that aim to address specific questions and research topics by engaging the dinner guests in a variety of activities and exercises to create inclusive experiences and thought-provoking conversations. Beyond the individual dinners, this project aims to push the limits of contextual practice in artmaking, and challenge the existing norms of installation, sculptural, and participatory performative art. It also hopes to spark a larger conversation about the function and nature of artistic events in communities, and about the power of creative forms in bridging, connecting, and creating stronger communities in the context of CMU, Pittsburgh, and beyond.

 

 

Dinner 1: The Holiday

Our first dinner party was inspired by stories from The Holiday bar - Pittsburgh’s oldest gay bar - in Pittsburgh, especially by how it was a safe haven for anyone to share their secrets and true selves to the bartender and patrons of the bar. Going off this topic, we decided to explore the research topic of true selves and confessions, and created different ways of allowing strangers to be comfortable sharing their secrets and intimate details of their lives with strangers in a way that was both vulnerable and empowering. We re-created a setup of the Holiday Bar that used to stand in that exact location more than 10 years ago, paired strangers up and encouraged them to trade their secrets and confessions with one another, and allowed them to connect by having them draw portraits of each other on a mural (recreating the Holiday Bar’s renowned mural) while recounting private and personal tales. Participants in the party included CMU students, as well as Pittsburgh citizens who had walked past the park and decided to stay a while.

 

Poster

 Poster to advertise the event around campus.

Poster to advertise the event around campus.

 

Dinner Documentation

 Takeaway / Thank You card given to guests as they enter the event. It says the history of the gay bar. As participants entered, we paired them with a stranger.

Takeaway / Thank You card given to guests as they enter the event. It says the history of the gay bar. As participants entered, we paired them with a stranger.

 One activity included drawing your partner on the mural wall. This was inspired by the mural in the original Holiday Bar, which had been a painting of frequent attendees.

One activity included drawing your partner on the mural wall. This was inspired by the mural in the original Holiday Bar, which had been a painting of frequent attendees.

 An anonymous confession bar. Participants wrote confessions. The bartender put in it the jar, and then gave them one written by another attendee. They had to pretend it was what they had written, to start a conversation with their partner.

An anonymous confession bar. Participants wrote confessions. The bartender put in it the jar, and then gave them one written by another attendee. They had to pretend it was what they had written, to start a conversation with their partner.

 Meal baskets for two prepared for the many pairs of strangers.

Meal baskets for two prepared for the many pairs of strangers.

 

 

Dinner 2: Dine in the Dark

Our second dinner explored the research topic of appearances and biases. We wanted to conduct an experimental dinner party where our guests would engage in deep conversation for hours without seeing each other at all, so as to prevent appearances from forming impressions and biases in their mind. We invited 10 strangers from various facets of campus - campus police officers, faculty, staff, undergraduate and graduate students - to have a dinner conversation without revealing any part of their identity or appearance. By having a diverse guest list, we hoped to conduct our research by observing how our guests interacted before they gained knowledge of their fellow attendees, and by having them engage in activities where they had to describe the other people at the table without ever having seen them. Following the dinner, we had a show in the Ellis Gallery for a week to present the "dinner party leftovers."

 

Poster

 Poster to advertise the event around campus.

Poster to advertise the event around campus.

 

Dinner Documentation

 

The Gallery Show

Immediately following the dinner, we converted the room into a gallery show so that we could open up the experience and findings to more people.

 Image of the show setup.

Image of the show setup.

 Table set-up remained up during the show. Food crumbs remained on the table. An audio recording of the dinner filled the room. Though the guests had left, their presence remained.

Table set-up remained up during the show. Food crumbs remained on the table. An audio recording of the dinner filled the room. Though the guests had left, their presence remained.

 Portraits of the attendee. The top image shows a self-portrait they drew before being lead to the event. The middle image is a portrait drawn in the dark by someone sitting next to them. The bottom image shows where they were seated during the dinner.

Portraits of the attendee. The top image shows a self-portrait they drew before being lead to the event. The middle image is a portrait drawn in the dark by someone sitting next to them. The bottom image shows where they were seated during the dinner.

 The blindfolds were hung on the wall along with images from the event, to show what the experience was like during the dinner.

The blindfolds were hung on the wall along with images from the event, to show what the experience was like during the dinner.

 

Dinner Party Conversation

The questions asked were: 

  • What do you believe in that other people think is crazy?
  • What would you do if you had 24 hours left to live?
  • If a crystal ball could tell you anything about yourself, what would it be?
  • Do you feel like you are part of a community?

An excerpt from the dinner is the following: