Turning Tables into Connections

 //PICTURED ABOVE: Kristin Kessler Schell ‘86 sits at her own Turquoise Table, ready to talk to her neighbors.

After a difficult French class in her sophomore year, Kristin Kessler Schell ’86 signed up for a summer abroad program to a small town called Ornans in western France. Every night, Schell’s host family would sit around their dinner table for hours and converse. It was there Schell found her love of hospitality and relationship building. Years later, Schell turned her passion for dinnertime conversations into a global movement surrounding a simple turquoise table. 

In everyday life, Schell noticed the lack of in-person communication with the growth of technology and cellular devices. As a simple and easy way to create a gathering place for neighbors, Schell put a turquoise table in her front yard.

“So, it is this paradox of being connected in a false way and, yet, the loneliness stems from that desire to have face to face and real-life connected relationships,” Schell said. “The table has met that need for so many people, just quick conversations, spontaneous and planned, where you can just go to the art of conversation.”

However, the Turquoise Table did not just bring people together from Schell’s neighborhood; it spread into an international movement in the United States and 13 other countries. Now, Schell has partnered with Tuesday Morning stores and sells her tables ready-to-go there, making the table more accessible to members of the movement. One of Schell’s classmates from Hockaday, Adreinne Gruben ‘86, is building a community in her neighboorhood in Valley Village, Los Angeles, with her daughter in mind. She bought a miniature Turquoise Table for her daughter to remind her of Schell’s lessons of hospitality and connections.

“The presence of the Turquoise Table has made me meet my neighbors, and I stand outside and congregate on various sidewalks, and I wanted to pass that to my daughter,” Gruben said.

But Schell points out that you don’t need the exact Turquoise Table to join her Front Yard People Movement. She suggests finding any meeting place in your neighborhood and organizing gatherings. One of Schell’s other classmates from Hockaday, Elizabeth Malakoff ’86, assisted in designing the Turquoise Table logo and aims to get to know people from her neighborhood.

“I have kids of my own, and obviously growing up in Dallas, it is so easy to not get to know your neighbors,” Malakoff said. “In my neighborhood, everyone plays out in their front yards, and so it is a front yard people block.”

This sense of creating a community that brings people together is the foundation of Schell’s Front Yard People movement and the Turquoise Table movement. With thousands of tables and a community that spans across almost all 50 states and globally, Schell has created an impact that builds relationships and spreads hospitality in neighborhoods around the world.

“I think the community, it is built on all different levels, so not only is it thousands of tables across the United States and 13 countries, but we also have a collective community of people online on the turquoisetable.com, and so people come on there to discover new ideas,” Schell said. “It has been this unexpected delight of all the different communities.”

Story by Erin Parolisi

Photo provided by Kristin Schell

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