Central’s Dinner Party

Have you ever considered the significance of a table?  What about the reasons for dinners? How are individuals deemed worthy for a “seat” at a table?  

Have you ever thought of the vast dinner parties held throughout history? (examples: The Last Supper, Knights of the Round Table) What did those dinners or groups symbolize?

Students of Katlyn Wolfgang’s Sculpture/3-D class explored these topics as they studied the work of Judy Chicago and her controversial feminist piece, The Dinner Party.


Judy Chicago’s piece lives in the Brooklyn Museum as a permanent installation.  

        The Dinner Party, an important icon of 1970s feminist art and a milestone in twentieth-century art, is   
        presented as the centerpiece around which the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art is 
        organized. The Dinner Party 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 
        with raised central motifs that are based on vulvar and butterfly forms and 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 permanent installation is enhanced by 
        rotating Herstory Gallery exhibitions relating to the 1,038 women honored at the table.
                                                                                        The Elizabeth  A. Strickler Center for Feminist Art

As a class, they discussed how Judy Chicago’s work addressed the cultural struggles of our society during the 1970’s.  Chicago addressed these struggles in a very direct manner through a very cumbersome.  Chicago and her crew underwent  a diligent selection and production processes in the creation of this monumental creation honoring women who have impacted our society.

The Task
Take the process of Chicago’s work within The Dinner Party and apply its concepts to represent and address our current society in the creation of Central’s Dinner Party. 

The students were first pressed with the concept of their dinner party.  What type of individuals should be honored?  After much discussion, it was decided amongst the students that they would honor media figures at their dinner party.  This decision came quite quickly when considering students of this era and their exposure to and influence of the media in their daily lives and how it is occasionally seen in a negative light.  

Each student brainstormed various individuals they could invite, as well as different ways they could represent their chosen person with imagery within the table setting.  

All elements were constructed out of clay as the students demonstrated their understanding of clay properties, building techniques and glazing.  
During the construction, students developed reflections on their individual exploring: the history of their individual, how their individual is of importance to their lives and how their individual is represented through each dinner party item.  All of these reflections and images of their pieces can be found on the following pages of this website.

Once the students completed constructing their table setting, they embarked on the final task of the assignment: setting up their dinner party while addressing actions within Central York.

With the help of Diversity Speciality: Peter Fernandez, students observed actions during one of Central’s daily dinner parties, lunch in the cafeteria. They took notes observing where people were sitting in relation to race, socioeconomic status, social groups, and gender.  They also were noting students body languages and actions. 


The observations were then discussed as a class, and the students noted different separations that occurred during lunch as well as other daily events (class, sports teams, before and after school in the auditorium).

Their challenge: To take a stand against the separations within our diverse population and arrange the seats of the dinner party in a way that “breaks the mold” that the students of Central are engaging in daily.

The students interacted with each other as they discussed the seating arrangements of their dinner party.  They predicted what types of conversations would happen with results of their seats.  What would they talk about?  What would they have in common? What would they agree upon?  How would they disagree?  After all classmates were in agreement of their placement, the students set up their place setting with their chosen seating arrangements.  

When all was set up and the students were admiring their finished work, they were asked to stand in front of their creation.  Once in these positions, students closed their eyes and considered the following elements:

 Compare and contrast yourself to the media figure you chose.
 Compare and contrast yourself to the media figures that flank the media figure you chose.
 Look at the students standing to your left and right.  Consider interactions you have had with those individuals though out the school year.

 Consider ways in which you can make Central’s Dinner Party a reality throughout the rest of Central and not limited to our artistic creation.
The Dinner Party; Central York Style