Experience Design / Community Impact / Art / Advertising / Social Research
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.
I am the Visual Designer. I also help create the dinner party experiences.
An ongoing year long project. This is a work in progress.
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.
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."
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.
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: