Mason welcomes ‘Dear World’ to campus

Photo provided by Dear World.

Dear World, a portrait project focused on bringing together campus communities worldwide through visual storytelling, will be visiting the Fairfax Campus April 5-6.

The interactive event will explore connections between all members of the Mason community with a goal of sharing personal stories to build understanding and start meaningful conversations about concepts that can bring people together.

Lisa Snyder, associate director of the LEAD office and Mason’s organizer of Dear World, said the idea to bring Dear World to campus has been in the works for more than a year and involves a number of different on-campus offices and organizations.

“This is really a chance for folks to come together, hear stories and see where those common threads lie with individuals,” Snyder said.

Dear World has three acts, which will take place over two days on the Fairfax Campus. The first act on Wednesday, April 5, is a VIP photo shoot, which will focuses on telling the stories of specific students, faculty, staff and alumni to help spread awareness about the larger, student-focused event on the following day.

The second act will take place on Thursday, April 6, from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., when students gather at the Johnson Center Atrium to visually tell their stories by writing words on their skin—usually their face, arms or palms—and have their pictures taken at an open photo shoot to share their messages. Up to five of these students will be chosen to participate in the third act—an early evening workshop that will help them develop their stories and then share them at the storytelling and photo reveal of the day’s portraits at 6:30 p.m. in the atrium.

“The statement on the arm…is meant to be something really personal to that individual that leaves you wondering [about its meaning],” Snyder said.

The Dear World events take place during Mason’s International Week, which is a fitting arrangement according to Sonja Henry, assistant director of programming for International Programs and Services and co-chair of International Week.

“International Week celebrates international and multicultural identities, which are the spirit of Mason,” Henry said. “Dear World…celebrates identities in the broadest sense, and even hidden identities that people may not get an opportunity to share.”

Amber Duffy, program coordinator for the Student Involvement office and co-chair of International Week, said there is no better time for these two events to occur together.

“With a lot of stuff that’s happened in the world over the past year, there’s been a renewed focus on intersectionality and getting rid of that one story that people have of others that they do not understand,” Duffy said.

The Dear World events are free, but students are asked to register for the photo shoot in advance.