DOME, Brooklyn / DREXEL UNIVERSITY, INSTITUTE FOR WOMEN’S HEALTH & LEADERSHIP, VISION 2020 / 2020
“Seat at the Table” highlights the current state of gender inequity in America on the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Presented by Drexel University’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, and located at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, the public exhibition is a reminder of the ongoing struggle by women since gaining the right to vote over 100 years ago and asks “Where are we now?”
While the exhibition honors the past, the purpose is to address the deep imbalance of decision-makers in our country at present and engage multiple generations across the political spectrum towards civic engagement. The exhibition aims to inspire individual and collective action—to ensure everyone has a “seat at the table” where decisions are made that shape our country.
The team was keenly aware of the American suffrage movement being marked by racial discrimination as it prioritized the vote for white women. A key strategy for the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership is building diverse coalitions, so the challenge was to inspire audiences to be advocates for gender equity without leaning on partisan cues.
As a solution, the design team created an experience around having a “seat at the table.” The form of the seat and its symbolism create multiple points of entry for visitors of different ages, genders, and abilities. Inspired by the Kimmel Center’s surrounding theaters, the exhibition acts as an open stage, inviting visitors to become participants in each scene.
Through seven seating areas of custom-built furniture and large floor typography, visitors can sit within human-scale infographics and embody the uneven ratios of women to men in work, government, and society.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Kimmel Center’s atrium saw thousands of visitors per week, often before and after events. The custom-built furniture, color palette, and scale of typography takes advantage of the expansive space and elevated vantage points. As visitors move through the public atrium, they encounter a series of statistics as though stepping into an analysis of the country—pie charts and bar graphs are extruded into furniture and telegraphic titles can be read from three balconies above.
The exhibition also shares the iconic public atrium with other major events hosted by the Kimmel Center throughout the year. All physical components, including the interactive screens, are modular and movable.
The design team’s scope included exhibition strategy and design, content strategy, visual identity and naming, physical and furniture design, environmental graphics for floor vinyl and signage, printed brochure, motion and interaction design, and software development.
The exhibition was closed shortly after opening on March 1, 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Originally scheduled to conclude by the presidential election November 2020, the exhibition is planned for reopening April 2021 and extended through at least June 30, 2021.