JACKSON TWP. Brandon Doman has long had a curiosity about people and their stories. So much so that one day while sitting outside of a coffee shop, he put up a sign on the table and opened a notebook.
Two women stopped and asked what he was doing, and he asked them to write their stories in his notebook. They did. Those two stories were the first of his collection of what’s now 30,000 anonymously written stories.
While he’s based in New York City, he has traveled to more than 80 cities throughout the country to exhibit many of the letters from the collection. The exhibit is called the Strangers Project and it is set up in center court at Belden Village Mall. It is available for viewing or for those who want to share their own stories and become part of the collection.
Doman was on hand on Feb. 3 for the opening of the exhibit. It was his first time in Canton.
"I’ve been in Ohio but it’s my first time in Canton and at Belden Village," Doman said. "We’ve been open close to an hour and I’ve gotten about dozen local stories already. The stories come from people of all ages and all walks of life. Some are funny, some are emotional. It’s amazing the broad range of stories I’ve gotten over the years."
Marketing Director of Belden Village Mall Gina Bannervich said the exhibit is part of the corporation’s Live 360 initiative.
"All of the malls in the corporation are doing events that are meaningful to the area and the community it serves," she said. "The stories the founder has collected come from all over the country and now Stark County stories will become a part of that collection."
Shoppers were stopping by to read many of the stories. One mall visitor, Lian Law, decided to add her own story to the collection.
"I like to write and so I decided to write a story today, some people write their stories out of pain, that’s where my story comes from today," Law said.
The exhibit consists of the handwritten stories clothes pinned to strings between metal frames. People were able to talk with the founder on Feb. 3 to discuss the exhibit and the stories with him.
"What I love about the stories is how much they resonate with people for different reasons," Doman said.
To read a few stories online or add a personal story to the collection, visit http://strangersproject.com/.
Doman has also published a book about the project titled, "What’s Your Story? True Experiences from Complete Strangers."