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My Brilliant Pen Pal

Our Autumn Quarter Pen Pal events with Ashanti Alston and Sabine Hossenfelder are currently under way! Thanks to everyone who signed up. 


Stay tuned to learn about our upcoming Pen Pal events.  

Hugh-Manatee With Pencil and Mail

For the 2020-21 season at the DePaul Humanities Center (DHC) we have pivoted to meet the demands of a new and newly complicated world.  As we investigate “The Year of Communicability” we realize that we will have no choice at times but to follow the suit of most other institutions, offering the occasional online event (though, we hope, with special additions and surprising reimaginings of the technology that will make our virtual events distinctive).  However, we are also committed to exploring ways to bring us together that employ non-virtual technology. 

 

Each event in the “My Brilliant Pen Pal” series will unfold across several weeks, with correspondences going back and forth between a special guest—the brilliant pen pal—and audience members, providing a unique experience unavailable anywhere, anyhow, or anywhen else. 

At a time in which the U.S. Postal Service is in a crisis, a time in which email has all but replaced postal mail, a time in which the remaining mail we do receive all too often includes only bills or bad news, we wish to celebrate a moment when checking the mailbox could be exciting and fun.  We wish to reinvigorate the pleasure and excitement of having a pen pal.  We wish to put aside the virtual and marvel at the wonders of the physical: the stationery, the rhythm of the correspondence, the stamps, the words and thoughts of a pen pal arriving across countless miles to speak to you. 

Each event will begin with the announcement of our special guest—the brilliant pen pal.  You will then have at least two weeks to sign up on the DHC website as an audience member (which includes providing a mailing address that will be kept confidential by Eventbrite and the DHC).  Each event will have a maximum of 250 audience members. 

In a matter of weeks, you and your fellow audience members will receive in the mail a short essay, letter, work of art, etc., from your new pen pal, something that our special guest has written or created specifically for this event and which will not be available to anyone else for at least several months.  You will then be encouraged to write back to the DHC with a question or comment for the pen pal (using the U. S. mail and the SASE we will provide with the first mailing).  The staff at the DHC will collect and curate responses and pass a selection along to the pen pal.  The pen pal will then respond to the selections, as well as some questions from DHC director, H. Peter Steeves.  You will then receive a copy of the responses by mail, bringing your brief but brilliant correspondence to a close.  (At some later point, a video documentary of the event will be uploaded to the DHC’s YouTube channel to be shared with the rest of the world.)