© 2021 Caitlin Rueter

A Feminist Tea Party

A Feminist Tea Party is a collaborative series by Caitlin Rueter and Suzanne Stroebe.

The project lies somewhere between a performance, an installation and a participatory event. Initially provoked by the Tea Party protests, a movement they imagined would be a fleeting phenomenon, A Feminist Tea Party recast the “tea party” as a playful, progressive, inquisitive and inclusive space.

Conceptually, A Feminist Tea Party engages with the history of the tea party (from Boston to Beck) and feminism (from the suffragist movement to Lady Gaga).The project’s aesthetics are meant to mirror techniques of the Tea Party movement, which has effectively played on the concept of historical reenactment as a vehicle for political discourse.

Rueter and Stroebe revisit the consciousness-raising groups of the 1970s in the set of a mid-century tea party. Dressed in 1950s costume and greeting guests in their “parlor”, the artists draw on the iconographic heritage of contemporary representations of women—sex and service, the consumer and the consumed. They create site-specific installations within each venue, building a set that recasts each space as a home and an open forum where essential and discomfiting issues can be discussed freely and with a sense of humor.

At each venue they invite viewers to join them for tea, sweets and conversation, welcoming participation, regardless of gender, political persuasion, or whether guests identify as feminists.

The project began in early 2010, as a one afternoon event within Jennifer Dalton and William Powhida’s project #class at Winkleman Gallery in New York City. For Rueter and Stroebe, as the Tea Party political movement gained frightening momentum, threatening women's rights and safety at every turn, a feminist dialogue seemed increasingly important and the project continued. Since its inception, A Feminist Tea Party has been exhibited in museums, galleries, universities and alternative spaces across the United States and Canada, adapting its installation to fit each venue and its content to suit each audience. It has also been expanded to include side projects in alternative formats. Venues have included:

4Heads Governors Island Art Fair, New York, NY
SEVEN Art Fair, Miami, FL
NYFA Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
2011 College Art Association Conference, New York, NY
Winkleman Gallery
Pomona College Museum of Art, Claremont, CA
Scripps College, Claremont, CA
The Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA
West Gallery, California State University, Northridge, CA
A.I.R. Gallery, Brooklyn, NY
Alfred University, Alfred, NY
ArtScape, Baltimore, MD
O'Born Contemporary, Toronto, Canada
Momenta Art, Brooklyn, NY

A Feminist Tea Party has been featured in The Huffington Post, Bitch Magazine, the James Kalm Art Review, and Hyperallergic, among other publications. Rueter and Stroebe have written about the project for NYFA Current, M/E/A/N/I/N/G Online, 25th Anniversary Edition, and Emergency Art Index 2013.