#6 Host a Dinner

Social Practice:
Art projects don't just have to result in finished products or gallery shows. Social Practice is an art medium that focuses on social engagement, collaboration, and participatory work with communities and institutions. Artists working in social practice co-create their work with a specific audience or propose critical interventions within existing social systems that inspire debate or catalyze social exchange.

Different from art therapy, social practice focuses on the interaction between audience, social systems, and the artist through attention to aesthetics, ethics, collaboration, and activism. The social interaction is key. It is this component that drives, or in some instances creates the project itself. Although some projects may incorporate traditional studio media, projects are realized through non-traditional forms such as performance, social activism, or mobilizing communities towards a common goal.

For this prompt the invitation is to host a dinner as an art project. Here are the ingredients to work with:

  • 5-10 people, at least half of whom did not know each other previously, and at least one third of whom you do not know well
  • A conversational theme... This could be anything of your choosing but should be something that you think each of your participants will have knowledge or direct experience with and be able to contribute towards in conversation
  • A menu that incorporates either, A.) ingredients that have to do with the conversational theme, B.) ingredients that have to do with the unique backgrounds of your guests, or C.) both!
    • ** If choosing option B or C I highly suggest a potluck wherein you ask guests to bring dishes that have personal relevance to them

That's it!

Consider how you would like to facilitate the dinner and suggest interaction around your theme. Then allow the interactions you have with people before, during, and after the dinner to be the art project. Your goal here as an artist is to facilitate space for meaningful exchange and surprise. If you want some inspiration check out how Nigerian chef Tunde Wey is organizing dinners as a space to talk about blackness in America, or how Shanna Castillo has been organizing dinners that host immigrant communities to bond with one another and learn about each other's cultures.

** Bonus points for your project: If it feels appropriate to snap some photos or document your event in another way (drawings, menus, or quotes from the conversation are all possibilities) send them to me and I'll upload them as examples for this post!**

 Chef Tunde Wey, left, and journalist Tony Norman, right, lead a discussion over dinner in Pittsburgh. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

Chef Tunde Wey, left, and journalist Tony Norman, right, lead a discussion over dinner in Pittsburgh. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

 Kate McCaffrey, gesturing center, was the host of a Syria Supper Club dinner in Maplewood, N.J.CreditTess Mayer for The New York Times

Kate McCaffrey, gesturing center, was the host of a Syria Supper Club dinner in Maplewood, N.J.CreditTess Mayer for The New York Times