Tête-à-Tête Opening Reception
Reinventing the Conversation Bench
On view March 8 – 16, 2019
Opening Reception: Mar. 8, 6-8PM
In partnership with Westport Arts Advisory Committee, this concept exhibition will takes place at the Westport Arts Center and features artists that reimagine and reinvent the Victorian-era conversation bench–also known as a tête-à-tête, courting bench, conversation bench, kissing bench and gossip’s chair. This unique piece of French furniture emerged in the 19th century, and translates to head-to-head–describing the early functionality of these seats during the Victorian era. The traditional tête-à-tête seat features chairs with S-shaped, curved backs facing opposite directions that share a center armrest. Early tête-à-tête pieces were designed to enhance many kinds of discrete yet intimate conversations such as courtship.
Our conversation bench project is envisioned as a symbolic way to encourage conversation and civility within our community. We aim to foster dialogue in these polarized times–as people sit, talk and listen, their understanding and tolerance of each other will organically improve. A contemporary re-imagining of the conversation bench will make this project relevant to today’s sensibilities. Our categories—fantastical, functional and collaborative—allow for a wide range of exhibitors with diverse artistic training and abilities.
Our hope is that, ultimately, the winning bench will find a home along the Saugatuck River or be an installation piece that travels around town or becomes part of Westport’s Permanent Art Collection (WestPAC). Creative programming developed by community organizations and centered around the idea of listening is the natural outgrowth of this project.
John Edelman – CEO, Design Within Reach Patricia Kane – Curator of American Decorative Arts, Yale University Art Gallery Paul Goldberger – Pulitzer Prize-winning American architecture critic and educator
Fantastical: Perhaps impractical to fabricate, this work encourages imagination and fantastical ideas and design. Functional: Designed to build, this practical and workable design considers functionality, form and everyday environments. Collaborative: This is a cross-disciplinary submission, for example, an architect & artist or graphic designer & industrial engineer