"Seat at the Table" highlights the current state of gender inequality in America on the centennial of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The public exhibition is a reminder of the ongoing struggle by women since gaining the right to vote over 100 years ago. 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 exhibition commemorates women's suffrage and asks "Where are we now?"
Visitors encounter the answer to this question through seven public seating areas of custom-built furniture and large floor typography. Visitors are invited to sit within human-scale infographics and embody the uneven ratios of women to men in work, government, and society. One of twenty chairs around a boardroom table represents the 5% slice of Fortune 500 CEOs who are women. A circular bench shows the divisions of 21.8% white women and 4.7% women of color in management positions. Half of an oversized chaise represents the 53 cents paid to Latina women for every $1.00 paid to white men. One of four arced Congressional seats are held by women as they face a blank podium, symbolizing the 0% of women U.S. Presidents. These statistics show an undeniable picture of stalled progress.
Coalition-building is key to the Institute's mission—the design team was challenged to capture the attention of visitors without leaning on partisan cues. As a solution, the Dome 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.
"Seat at the Table" aims to connect history with relevant and necessary action. With the centennial of the 19th Amendment falling on a presidential election year, the exhibition urges civic engagement through the act of voting. Visitors pedal on bicycles to "exercise your right to vote," representing voter turnout over the years. Six interactive screens invite visitors to vote on issues that best advance gender equality. In addition, visitors can explore the pivotal moments of eighteen pioneering women from 1920–2020. Adjacent café tables display the percentage of women in eighteen occupations, contextualizing these pioneers within industry today. 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 exhibition was temporarily closed shortly after launch due to the Covid-19 pandemic and is planned for reopening in April 2021.
The exhibition presents a current snapshot of gender inequality in the U.S. through infographic furniture. Visitors are invited to sit and embody these stark statistics at human scale.Jens Ohlsson
The Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts hosts the 6,000-square-foot exhibition in its public atrium. Visitors can view the entire installation from multiple balconies above.Jens Ohlsson
Seven areas represent the state of women today in leadership, workforce, and voter participation. Viewers experience a grand, telegraphic view from above and a close, interactive experience on the ground.Jens Ohlsson
Yellow and white, key colors of women's suffrage, demarcate the disparity between women and men. 1 of 20 chairs represents the 5% slice of Fortune 500 CEOs who are women.Jens Ohlsson
Vinyl floor graphics provide context to a dollar-shaped chaise which shows the gender income gap delineated by ethnicity.Jens Ohlsson
The invention of the bicycle advanced women's mobility and symbolizes the past 100 years of voter turnout in the exhibit.Dome
18 cafe tables show the proportion of women in occupations across different sectors including finance, education, government, military, healthcare, STEM, and media.Dome
Six interactive screens feature dynamic quotes, portraits, and contributions of eighteen pioneering women since 1920. "What's Your Vision?" polls visitors on issues that best advance gender equality in 2020.Dome
The centennial of the 19th Amendment was cause for both commemoration and mobilization. While the exhibition honors women's suffrage and its pioneers, the purpose was to address the current, deep imbalance of decision-makers in our country and engage multiple generations across the political spectrum towards civic engagement.
The team was keenly aware of the American suffrage movement being marked by racial discrimination as it prioritized the vote for white women, adding to a long history of one marginalized group "winning" at the expense of others. A key strategy for the Institute for Women's Health and Leadership is building diverse coalitions, so the challenge was to inspire all audiences to be advocates for gender equality.
Dome worked closely with the client to create a strategic plan for the visitor experience and the physical components that would bring stories of empowerment, disenfranchisement, and intersectionality to life.
Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the public 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 Kimmel Center's 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, numbers are two feet long, and titles can be read from three balconies above.
Visitors can engage in different ways. From the ground level, they can walk through while reading content at a grand scale. Visitors can also dwell longer on each piece for a more intimate experience that is accessible to visitors of various ages, heights, and abilities. From a bird's-eye view, visitors can see how elements of the exhibit align to the slate floor tiles like a sheet of grid paper.
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. In addition, the visitor journey takes advantage of the asymmetrical angles in the space and inclined floor with site-specific environmental graphics.
Dome's scope of services 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 the year.