About nine years ago, Brandon Doman started what was supposed to be a one-day experiment in which he collected written stories from obliging strangers outside a cafe. At the time, the Brooklyn artist was interested in exploring the concept of anonymity, and whether the guarantee of having it would shape the narratives people felt comfortable disclosing.
“I didn’t know if anyone would participate or what they might write about — I just thought it would be something fun to try,” Doman told ALL ARTS. “I was immediately amazed at what people were sharing, and also by just seeing how the project was resonating with people.”
Thus, The Strangers Project was born. Since then, Doman has traveled to dozens of cities and hand collected more than 35,000 written stories, the brunt of which will be on display at Fountain House Gallery in Manhattan until Sept. 2. While Doman is hoping attendees contribute to the project during its stay at Fountain House, he says it’s certainly not a requirement.
“I invite them to read, share, or both,” he said. “Even if they don’t choose to share that day, I think most people at least think about their own story after visiting the project.”
Doman demurred when asked if he had a favorite piece of writing that’s been submitted over the years, but he has been known to post a curated selection of entries on social media, where more than 50,000 people are following along with the project.
“I read every story — 35,000 and growing — and there are still new and interesting stories that come in every day that I’m collecting,” he said. “I’ve found that all it takes is a simple invitation to receive some of the most heartfelt, raw, honest and wonderful stories I’ve ever experienced. These come from all ages and all walks of life.”
A free opening reception will be held on Aug. 16 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m
Here are four other free events happening this week that should be on your radar:
International Center of Photography
250 Bowery, Manhattan
August 16; 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Take advantage of the museum’s “pay what you wish” day and check out one of several ongoing exhibitions. Our top pick is “Multiply, Identify, Her,” a women-led project that explores identity through different mediums, including photography, video, film and digital production.
Emerging Music Festival
Bryant Park, Manhattan
August 17; 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.
The Emerging Music Festival is hosting its fourth annual celebration this Friday, and all ages are welcome to attend on the Bryant Park lawn. Performers include pop-rock band EZTV, dance-friendly Underground System, baroque pop act Palmas and more. The event is free, but food and drinks served by nearby vendors will be available for purchase.
Beach 94th Street Plaza, Rockaway Beach, Queens
August 17; 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
The 33rd season of SummerStage continues on Saturday with free performances from Chicago dance-pop duo Gilligan Moss, Brooklyn-based group Argonaut & Wasp and electronica vocalist Jitwam. Tickets are free, but crowds to see Gilligan Moss are expected to be large, so early arrival is recommended.
Rite of Summer: Collaborative Arts Ensemble
Colonels Row, Governors Island
August 18; 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
More than two dozen interdisciplinary artists will be convening on Governors Island this Sunday for a concert series designed to promote social consciousness. Operating under this year’s theme of “Letters of the American South,” each artist will be telling a story or answering a question through text, music or physical movement.
Top Image: Courtesy of The Strangers Project