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The Columbus School for Girls is encouraging students to become citizens of the world by taking a seat.
In observance of the International Day of the Girl Child on Oct. 11, the school held “A Seat at the Table,” an outdoor exhibit displayed in front of the school and featuring chairs designed by every CSG student from preschool through 12th grade.
Students decorated the chairs with themes illustrating contemporary issues affecting the world, from climate change to women in leadership. “A Seat at the Table” gave the students the opportunity to express their voices through art, CSG Head of School Camille Seals said.
“Whether it’s our youngest learners sharing their passion for animals or our older students communicating the importance of environmental justice and women’s rights, we’re giving our girls the information and experiences they need to find and use their own voices to be the change they wish to see in the world,” she said.
“A Seat at the Table” was organized by the Center for Girls’ and Young Women’s Leadership, a CSG initiative that offers a leadership-centered curriculum.
Emily Krichbaum, director of the Center for Girls’ and Young Women’s Leadership, said “A Seat at the Table” was inspired by the words and work of the late Shirley Chisholm, the first Black Congresswoman (a Democrat representing New York) and the first Black woman to seek the nomination for the presidency from a major political party.
“Shirley Chisholm, once said, ‘If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair,’” Krichbaum said. “Ms. Chisholm’s perseverance and historic trailblazing efforts inspired this installation.”
Krichbaum said a classic photograph of Chisholm at the White House inspired CSG’s “A Seat at the Table” exhibit.
“There is an iconic image of Ms. Chisholm sitting at a long table in the White House with President Richard Nixon and the other members of the Black Caucus. She was the only woman at the table,” Krichbaum said. “And, throughout her life, Ms. Chisholm was oftentimes the only woman at the table. She knew she wouldn't be offered a chair − but, regardless of that fact, she found a way to be where decisions are made. Change isn't easy or always welcome but, with great determination, it is possible.”
The CSG students chose their own themes and used their creativity to decorate their chairs − representing the school’s diversity of ideas and perspective of each student, Krichbaum said.
“I started thinking, what if every single one of our students was provided a folding chair?” she said. “What if that folding chair represented how they would use their voice when they're at the table?”
CSG displayed the “A Seat at the Table” exhibit in front of the school throughout the week of Oct. 10-14, and the school has plans to present the exhibit in other locations around central Ohio in the coming months, Krichbaum said.
“We are planning several smaller art installations throughout Columbus,” she said. “Once those art installations conclude, our girls will take their chairs home. Their chair will serve as a physical reminder that they, too, have a seat at the table.”
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