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Dorchester Girl Scouts contribute to Kennedy Institute exhibition

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Dorchester Girl Scouts contribute to Kennedy Institute exhibition
COURTESY GIRL SCOUTS OF EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS (GSEMA MARKETING)

As part of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute’s “A Seat at the Table” program, burgeoning artists from Girl Scout Troop 55302 of Dorchester have designed chairs with empowering messages for installation at the Institute, which opened in 2015 in Dorchester’s
Columbia Point.

The “Seat at the Table” project was inspired by Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm’s famous quote, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Chisholm was the first black woman elected to congress and persevered in her fight for racial and gender rights despite the challenges she encountered. Later she also became the first black woman candidate to run for the presidential nomination of a major party. The exhibit features chairs designed by community groups and activists to reflect the social causes and values important to them.

COURTESY GIRL SCOUTS OF EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS (GSEMA MARKETING)

COURTESY GIRL SCOUTS OF EASTERN MASSACHUSETTS (GSEMA MARKETING)

Tonia Gilstrap, Troop 55302’s site facilitator (effectively troop leader), says she was amazed by what the girls created. “I was very proud that they were so engaged in current events,” she says. “The program shows that girls like themselves can do anything.”

The troop spent two weeks creating seven chairs, which are now on display at the EMK Institute. Many of them have empowering phrases like “You matter” and “Keep shining” on them. One features a black-and-white photo of Chisholm, framed with flowers. The project also was an educational opportunity, as representatives from the EMK Institute came in to provide information about Chisholm to the troop and host a question-and-answer session before the young artists dug into their paints.

Girl Scout Troop 55302 of Dorchester is a part of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts’ community programs. These programs provide the Girl Scout experience at community centers and schools at no cost to ensure equal access around the state. These accessible programs function the same way as a typical Girl Scout troop and are available in all areas of Boston and in 14 towns in Greater Boston.

On the web
Learn more about the program at

Next month, 20 artists selected by a jury process will bring their own chairs to join the Girl Scouts’ chairs in the installation. Participants include Massachusetts-based artists Jeffrey Chandler, Merill Comeau, Kristina McComb and Margot Stage and David Crane, as well as artists from Arizona, California, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and South Carolina.

Gilstrap says her troop members were ecstatic when they visited the EMK Institute to see their work on display. “When they saw it, they were awestruck,” says Gilstrap. “They were creating something that will be a part of history.” 

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