A Dinner Party Makes History

23 Jun

Artist Judy Chicago stands in front of her now-famous art installation "The Dinner Party"

THIRTY-FOUR YEARS AGO, in 1976, artist Judy Chicago invited the world to a dinner party that already had more than a thousand guests. “The Dinner Party” is “an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art…. [It] comprises a massive ceremonial banquet, arranged on a triangular table with a total of thirty-nine place settings, each commemorating an important woman from history. The settings consist of embroidered runners, gold chalices and utensils, and china-painted porcelain plates … rendered in styles appropriate to the individual women being honored. The names of another 999 women are inscribed in gold on the white tile floor below the triangular table.” (This description is taken from the web site of the Brooklyn Museum, which now permanently displays the art installation as the centerpiece of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art.

Anne Marie Pois, an oral historian with the Boulder Library’s Maria Rogers Oral History Program, was involved in the creation of “The Dinner Party.” She has made a short video,  “Right Into History: The Dinner Party as Catalyst for Social Activism,” which you can watch here, in which she tells the story both of the collaborative process of creating this now-famous piece of art and the ways in which it contributed to her becoming a history professor (she taught in the Women’s Studies Department at the University of Colorado for sixteen years) and a life-long social activist.

“Right Into History” was created as part of Dr. Kayann Short’s “Activist Archive Digital Storytelling Project” in which University of Colorado students worked with long-time community leaders to create digital stories about experiences that influenced their commitment to social change. This video is the second of those digital stories to appear on our blog. (The first was LeRoy Moore’s moving piece, “The Gift of Nonviolence.”) Other videos and more of Dr. Short’s work with students are available on her Memory Box site.

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