Beginnings in New Orleans
If you were in New Orleans in February of 2010, a few things were inescapable. There was a mayoral election on. Carnival season was in full swing. And there was heightened anticipation and possibility of a Super Bowl appearance by the local professional football team–the Saints.
One other unmissable element cropped up in New Orleans that winter. On social media feeds, everyone seemed to be sharing a certain kind of photo: portrait photography shots where the subject had written a message of love to the city of New Orleans on their bodies, taken by RX (Robert) Fogarty – founder of Dear World.
The project – titled ‘Dear New Orleans’ – kicked off with the Saints on Superbowl game day at a local bar. . A few nail-biting hours later, the Saints had Superbowl rings, Dear New Orleans had hosted its first gig, and Fogarty was a tip jar bucket richer (About $80 he recalls). Later that summer, the Saints invited the Dear New Orleans team to photograph the players at the Super Bowl Ring ceremony.
Around the same time, a man named Ralph Serpas wrote “Cancer Free” during a “Dear New Orleans” event with Robert. That was when Fogarty realized his business wasn’t limited to the city it started from; at that moment, Dear New Orleans became Dear World. Even as this evolution occurred – but before an official rebranding – a Harvard Kennedy school graduate school student from New Orleans named Jonah Evans invited Fogarty to speak at the Harvard Social Enterprise conference.
Robert explained to Evans how Dear New Orleans was really Dear World – he just hadn’t found the right place to launch it. Evans was on board. Fogarty called another friend Benjamin Reece, and they built the first Dear World website in one night. Evans began stirring buzz at Harvard, telling classmates the conference had a chance to host the founder of Dear World shouldn’t pass on the opportunity. The plan worked: Robert not only spoke at, but closed out the Social Enterprise Conference, impressing attendees enough to be invited back the following year.