Benton House in Bridgeport in collaboration with South Side Community Art Center in Bronzeville

The Artists Dinner

Mixed media and found objects on table

Participating Artists – Yesenia Buena, Jiton Davidson, Amaya Fabela, Olema Fernandez, JC (Jacqeline) Finley, Marian Hayes, Renee Robinson, Izola Wright

Teaching Artists – Elise Cody, Kristina Tendilla, Ife Williams

Special thanks to Trisha Martin for sharing her paper-making skills with the group, and to Ernie Perez for documentation.

A group of women representing neighborhoods in, around, and between Benton House and the Southside Community Arts Center came together to create a powerful artistic synergy. As artists; some novice, others self-taught, and a few professional, we desired to create a space in which we were empowering each other to express ourselves creatively and truthfully. Given the distinct historic barriers that once plagued the invisible gulf between Bridgeport and Bronzeville, this project required incredible fortitude and courage in order to open up dialogue, to heal old wounds, and discover new understandings and truths— ultimately enabling us to accentuate and celebrate the commonalities that our communities share.

Celebrating the diverse identities and experiences of the women in our group; be it the voice of our youngest participant, the opinions of our well-traveled individuals, or the knowledge and creative leadership of the dedicated DIY artist, we all helped shape the creative collaboration of our piece, The Artists Dinner. The concept of The Artists Dinner uses a shared meal as a platform for community building. We believe that food is incredibly steeped in culture, geography, and familial tradition and rich in sensory experiences like taste, smell, color, and texture. These qualities make it an invaluable tool in discussing, analyzing, and sharing the intersectional realties of our lives, as well as a useful medium to inspire and inform our art.

Within The Artists Dinner, we each bring our own unique lived experiences to the table, and we come together to break bread. We talk, we laugh, we sing, and we share. We eat of friendship and drink of love. At this table, we are uncensored and honest, caring and compassionate— two of the most important ingredients used in producing this dinner are respect and tolerance. We hunger for interconnectedness, and through this dinner we seek to nourish ourselves and our communities. Most importantly, the dinner is open to all: we invite our guests to a collective feast stirred by culture, history, dialogue, intellect, and empowerment.