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April 11, 2020

New collaborative website offers ways for virtual participation in popular exhibit

By Jan Crocker

When the “A Seat at the Table” exhibit was unveiled at the Kennedy Institute in October 2018 with the first of the project’s three phases, it quickly gained popularity among visitors from all over. Some visitors felt personally inspired by Congresswoman Chisholm’s determination, some drew parallels to the upcoming mid-term elections, which included more diverse candidates than ever, and some saw how the message of inclusion at tables of power still is an ideal to aspire to today. This theme of involving the community’s voice in determining what is most crucial for a community was amplified in the second phase of this project, as previously summarized here. Our aim was to offer a wide range of workshops where community members could create their own seats at the table about whatever issues the felt most passionately about. These creations, and the stories that inspired them, were so powerful we knew we needed to find a way to preserve these ephemeral pieces. We also commissioned artists to create twenty works of art dedicated to contemporary and historic ‘trailblazers’ who forged their own paths to tables of power. We just needed to find a way to ensure the wonderful stories of both the community- and artist-made chairs would endure.

That solution was announced this week with the creation of an exciting new microsite –– –– dedicated entirely to this immersive exhibit and fostering continued participation and conversation. Through this innovative resource, anyone is able to readily access background information on artists; trailblazers like the iconic public servant at the heart of it all, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm; and other powerful groups or individuals who made an impact in how the “A Seat at the Table” exhibit evolved. Additionally, visitors to the microsite can check out the timeline of how the project progressed.

If you want to discover how other people interpreted the experience with their own chairs, head over to the press section to view articles published by various outlets from throughout the exhibit’s tenure while on display. Along with Institute announcements, there are unique stories about a certain artist or community group and their own approach to the activity at hand. What might be one of the most exciting features is the chance to make your own chair and have it be part of the online collection. To gather ideas, you can view other seats already created and consider how each of them brings a different perspective to the table.

No matter where you are –– in Boston, Massachusetts, or even another state all together –– this opportunity is open to you. When more people take part and, yes, make their voices heard, the level of civic engagement in society is more invigorated. So, be sure to check out, create your own masterpiece of a seat at the table, and share with our website and on social media by including the Institute at @emkinstitute and the #byoc hashtag.

The Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, civic education organization in Boston envisioned by the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. Through a range of exhibits, interactive educational offerings, and topical programs, the Institute engages students and visitors in a conversation about the essential role each person plays in our democracy and in our society.