Sunday, August 8, 2010

A PostSecret Adventure!

Back in graduate school, one of my good friends introduced me to an amazing blog: PostSecret.

The site was created by Frank Warren, who wanted to create a community art project, and passed out postcards, leaving them in public places for others to find. One side was blank, while the other side had the following instructions:

"You are invited to anonymously contribute a secret to a group art project. Your secret can be a regret, fear, betrayal, desire, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything - as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before. Be brief. Be legible. Be creative." 

Both the number and the content of the postcards that Frank received back were overwhelming. He then began to post them on his web site which attracted significant attention, and became a community of sorts, also adopting an important message of suicide prevention. One of the best parts of the site is the dialogue that happens between those who look at the postcards and react. Frank shares some of the responses in an ongoing conversation on the site.

Frank receives hundreds of postcards each day, mailed to his home address in Maryland, which also appears on the front cover of his first book (there are four total). Each Sunday, he posts new secrets on the site, choosing just twenty-some to share with the world. Some are funny, some are really weird, some are sad and painful, some are inspiring. Here's one of my favorites from the secrets posted today:

I so agree with this one!

I love the creative ways that people share their secrets. And that sometimes the the smudges and damages done to the postcard in transit add something to the site.

Frank also speaks all across the country about the project, and I had the privilege to help bring him to Iowa State while I was in graduate school. See:

Frank is just this totally awesome person. It was really interesting to see how many people truly trust him because of this project - so many walked right up and whispered their secrets to him that they had never told anyone before. In his book, he's referred to as "The Most Trusted Stranger in America."

As part of our experience while at Iowa State, we also created our own project, where members of the Iowa State community could share their secrets. My coworker and I were the lucky ones that got to collect and read all of the secrets first, before posting them (I do have a few on the board).

And...this weekend I got to see some of the PostSecret postcards in person! I was in Indianapolis, and the current exhibit at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art was the postcards used in the most recent book: PostSecret: Confessions on Life, Death, and God. The exhibit was awesome, and free! I didn't take any pics (not usually kosher in museums), but I will tell you that it was really fascinating to see the postcards up close, especially because some I had seen in the other two books that I own, including one that really jumps out at me: "I don't know what to say to God anymore." They all tied into themes of faith: loss of faith, spirituality, a search for meaning, disbelief, religious experiences, many different secrets expressed in so many ways.

If you haven't visited the site, do so right away. And do it weekly! There aren't any archives, so you need to become a regular. Perhaps you might even decide to send one in.

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