Dinner pARTy!

School of Art Interdisciplinary Grant 2017
Sarah Stinson-Hurwitz, Faith Kaufman, Daniel See, Nick Boston

A work in progress!


04.28.2017 | The Proposal

The following are excerpts from the grant that we submitted to the CMU School of Art for consideration for the Interdisciplinary Grant.

Abstract

Part of college is learning about new people and new perspectives. This process begins during orientation when Freshmen are flung into a new environment with the expectation of making new friends and beginning the “best years of their lives”. However, post-orientation opportunities to meet new people greatly diminish, and friends become the people that one shares classes or housing with. In addition, CMU students often interact within a social bubble that rarely extends beyond fellow CMU undergraduates, which limits them to only learning from people with similar backgrounds and perspectives. Dinner pARTy aims to create the opportunity for CMU students to engage with people of various backgrounds, and uses these events as happenings to spark productive conversations that can create positive social impact within and beyond CMU. It hopes to create a comfortable and open environment, giving guests a chance to break out of their comfort zone, collaborate, and try new things. In general, the main goal behind Dinner pARTy is to bring people together and tap on their common humanity, interests, and passions to build a stronger sense of community in and out of CMU.

Description

Our proposed project, Dinner pARTy, aims to create a series of organized dinner events on campus to bring together people of different backgrounds and social circles in order to address various social issues and create a positive impact.

After freshman year and beyond orientation week, most college students become pigeonholed into their own social circles within their respective colleges or student organizations. There are few opportunities for students to branch out and meet students in other colleges or social circles, and this prevents CMU from being an inclusive, interconnected community.

In the larger Pittsburgh community, students at CMU also tend to exist in a unique bubble — we rarely get to know and befriend college students from other universities, people in the general Pittsburgh community, or even the dining services staff that serve us food and the janitors that come in every day. This project thus aims to create new connections outside of the typical CMU student life.

Through hosting regular dinner events, we hope to curate a diverse guest list and a specific theme for each dinner in order to achieve the abovementioned goals. For instance, some dinners could be focused on bringing together people from different colleges, while other dinners might be more focused on having students be more appreciative to the staff and faculty at CMU. Some dinners would also have a social goal and deliverable — for instance, one of the themes might be having guests come together to brainstorm ideas to improve the CMU community, and we could then follow up with the guests after the event to bring the project to fruition.

This project will exist in the contextual practices realm, and builds on the successes and processes of past successful social art. Works that inspired our project include Jeremy Deller’s It Is What It Is (2009) and Marc Horowitz’s The National Dinner Tour (2004) — these projects build on the idea of bridging different communities that would otherwise have not crossed paths, and using productive conversation as a way creating social impact.

The main resource that this project requires is the funds to purchase food and related materials (utensils, diningware, etc.), as the premise of the project is to bring strangers together over a home-cooked meal. Dinner pARTy requires a very large selection of props for its theme nights which will serve the purpose of bringing participants out of their comfort zones and sparking substantive conversation (see Appendix A for list of ideas and themes).

Dinner pARTy has a few different options for venue, which are flexible as the project progresses. The safest and most comfortable space on campus would be a medium sized, private empty space with large tables such as CFA 310. Having Dinner pARTy on campus would allow for easy access from students. Another option would be to host the dinners at Faith’s house, which is located across from the Frame Gallery and would also allow for quick access for students from any location. While having an event off campus can create its own complications, it also offers some great positives — a home can be a more comfortable and expressive space than a classroom on campus. We have also considered the possibility of holding Dinner pARTy in outside venues in the warmer months such as Schenley Park or in a Frame show.

Team Members

1. Sarah Stinson-Hurwitz | BHA Art and Gender Studies
Qualifications: SURF Summer 2017, Frequently hosts dinner parties and activities to connect people
Sarah will plan Dinner pARTy including the dates, cuisine, and theme. She will cook for and set up the events. She will also moderate and lead Dinner pArty as needed. She will instruct guests on activities and review feedback after the dinners.

2. Faith Kaufman | www.faithkaufman.com | Design Major, HCI Major, IDeAte Media Design Minor
Qualifications: Graphic Design USA Student to Watch, 2017 AIGA PGH Judges Choice Winner, CMU Design Sophomore Communication Design Merit Award, Marilyn Meltzer Prize Award Grant for Studies in Color (Year-long grant completed in April 2017), Design League Member, Co-president of Mortar Board National Honor Society, CMU Design Deans List, Lunar Gala Creative Director and Head of Brand
Faith will design advertising and promotional materials about the dinner. She will create a branding system that allows for variety of theme. The tickets and menu design will feel different each time but still cohesive to fit the Dinner Party brand. Faith will film and document each Dinner pARTy. She will assist her collaborators in the concept development and planning of the project. Since she is also an interaction designer, she will be able to help with the synthesis of interaction techniques for the dinner conversations.

3. Daniel See | www.danielyxsee.com | BHA Art and Decision Science
Qualifications: Impact CMU 1st Place (2016), Anne Ophelia Dowden Freshman Award (2016), SURG Grant (2017), Co-curator and event organizer for multiple on-campus art shows and events
Daniel will assist with the social aspects of the project — with his experience with art as a social practice and his work with marginalized communities in Pittsburgh, he hopes to expand the social footprint of the project and facilitate productive and meaningful conversations and reflective sessions through Dinner pARTy to create sustained social impact.

4. Nick Boston | BS Logic and Computation 
Qualifications: President and Lead Moderator of Philosophy Club in High School, Former Government Liaison between the Mayor’s Office of Asbury Park and Jersey Shore Dream Center, WPRB DJ, Member of WRCT 
Nick will assist with moderating discussion and curating music playlists to be played at the dinners. As the non-creative major of the group, Nick will help other STEM students to feel comfortable with people outside of their major who may not usually socialize with the non-STEM majors. This social gap is a prevalent issue at CMU, and Nick hopes that he can help each group find commonalities in one another.

Appendix A: List of proposed dinner themes and ideas

Theme Ideas:

  • Dine in the Dark
    One Dinner pARTy will have the entire dining experience in the dark. Guests would come in one-by-one, so as not to see the other guests. This dinner would be focused on shredding the physical stereotypes we have of people, and focus on the things that really matter — their intentions, attitudes, and personality. For this event, we also thought of bringing people from different backgrounds that we tend to judge by appearances — homeless people in Pittsburgh, a local police officer, or even the school janitor. We also understand that working with people who are not a part of the campus community can cause complications, and will adopt appropriate risk-management strategies so that the safety of students is not compromised, and are happily prepared to only work with people from campus.
  • Family Game Theme
    This idea involves dinner attendees sharing games that they played growing up with their families. Because the attendees would be coming from a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, this would give everyone a chance to learn and experience new games that they may have never played before. It also allows attendees to feel joy and a sense of community in sharing personal and familial traditions.
  • Mini-proposal night
    This idea involves bringing together passionate people in the Pittsburgh community to brainstorm and propose ideas for social change. We hope to bridge different changemakers and groundbreakers together, and be the catalyst for these groups to effect sustained and powerful change. Using the resources and funds afforded by this grant, we also hope to be able to support these proposals and follow them through after the dinner event.
  • Student-proposed events
    We would also like to dedicate the planning for some of our events to interested CMU students. For instance, a student might be interested in promoting Filipino culture through food, and we would support this student’s ideas and help him/her organize a dinner event focused on cultural exchange and food experiences.

Proposed icebreakers at dinner events through themes and activities:

  • Box Night
    A theme for a dinner that could help break guests out of their comfort zones and give them a chance to open up. It would involve giving them a silly task to focus to take them a little bit out of their personal identity. In speaking with Idea Specialist, Jeanine Esposito, I learned that a fun way to do this is to provide participants with a different sort of persona or mask for a moment so that they would feel more free. Creating this persona could take on many different manifestations at Dinner pARTy. For example one theme night would be box night. On this night a box filled with stuffed animals, and costumes would be passed around the room. The guests would be instructed to take a few items out of the box. They would then be told that they needed to use the items to create a new identity which they would need to keep up for the duration of Dinner pARTy.
  • Fax Machine
    A derivative of the game “Telephone” where attendees all receive 10 blank index cards, and on the top card, draw a picture of a scenario such as “a penguin playing golf on the moon”. Everyone then passes the top card to the right. The attendees then write down on the next card their interpretation of the picture that was just passed to them. The process repeats, alternating form drawing pictures based no words, and writing words based on pictures until all 10 index cards have been used. No matter the artistic skill of the participants, the game always devolves into hilariously misconstrued descriptions and pictures. Sure to encourage everyone to laugh and grow comfortable.

Timeline

  1. Pre-Production and Research
    Summer months and September
  • Dinner pARTy members decide on strict weekly time commitments; these may take the form of an independent study or outside of class work
  • Preliminary Research is conducted
  • Dinner pARTy branding is made, with 2 or 3 examples of dinner theme identity variations made
  • Dinner pARTy members decide on themes for the different dinners, considering cuisines to serve and props to use
  • Advertising begins
  • Last two weeks of September: buy props and food for the first dinner and solidify plans for the first Dinner pARTy

2. Project Schedule Itemizing Tasks + Allocating Time /
3. Event Information Such as Exhibition, Performance, Publication, etc.
October, November, December, January, February

  • We will host 10 dinner parties on Friday or weekend nights. There will be a dinner about every other week.
  • Dinner pARTies should last between 2–3 hours
  • Set up for the parties will be 3 hours
  • Clean up will also be 3 hours and guests will be asked to provide some assistance, which will give them a sense of responsibility purpose to the event they just attended. This could be called the Dinner pARTing
  • Cooking will take 8–12 hours in the previous days (depending on the dishes)
  • Dinner pARTy members meet weekly for two hours to discuss upcoming and past parties. They reconvene about aspects that worked and didn’t work and revise plans for future Dinner pARTies. Members also choose the guests for the next Dinner pARTy at this time.
  • January: review proposals from Dinner pARTy guests to create themes for the final three Dinner pARTies.
  • February host Dinner pARTies based on guest applications

4. Post Production
End of February/ March

  • End of February/ March: write report/ put together documentation and video taken by Faith Kaufman from past Dinner pARTies
  • March 9th: Submit a report

We also included a budget and supplementary materials with the grant proposal.


05.05.2017 | We Received the Grant!

They split the money between three teams that had applied for the grant. We were allocated $1800 of the $4000 to pursue Dinner pARTy.

Group hug after receiving the grant

05.12.2017 | Planning + Rebudgeting

Before leaving for the summer, we met to discuss rebudgeting plus our plans for the summer.

Budget

Budget

Stage 1: Pre-Production and Research

We decided on weekly time commitments.

Our summer responsibilities are the following:

  • Sarah, Nick, Dani come up with 3 SUPER COOL ideas each to be discussed at the end of the summer
  • Faith creates Dinner pARTy branding, with 2 or 3 examples of dinner theme identity variations. She also brainstorms promotional material

We also discussed possible advisors and shared contact information.

We are also searching for more art projects that we can have as references.

We started considering incentives to get people to actually come:

  • Paid for ticket (but we want it to be free..)
  • Free food
  • Send reminder emails in the week/ days prior
  • Individually meet with guests to give roles and knowing them on an individual basis/ just a phone call
  • Ask psych major
  • Make it not feel like extra work/ it is a way to unwind!
  • Thrive at cmu ( people already seeking wellness and opportunities at cmu)
  • Meet new people
  • Friends have their friends come to the next dinner
  • (replacement guests for people who cancel)
  • Allotting places for each major

We also determined that our overarching goal is to get people to have real conversations.

We considered words that would define our project:

  • Immersive!
  • close-knit? — how to word this better?
  • equal!
  • comfortable
  • genuine
  • fun
  • diverse
  • break social barriers
Like what you read? Give Faith Kaufman a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.