PostSecret comes to Boone

Michael Bragg

Frank Warren keeps secrets for a living.

Now, he’s spilling them.

Warren, the founder and curator of the online mail-art project PostSecret, will speak on campus Tuesday as part of his ongoing college tour.

The project started in 2005 as a community art project, when Warren left blank postcards in public spaces with an invitation for strangers to anonymously mail it back to his personal home address, decorated and revealing a secret about themselves.

Since its conception, PostSecret has rapidly gained popularity, with Warren reaching a total of about 500,000 postcards in his collection. Each week, consistently, Warren weeds through the hundreds of postcards he receives and posts 10 notable secrets to his Blogspot page every Sunday. Common themes range from hidden sexual desires to suicidal thoughts to confessions of love.

Warren has published five book compilations of postcards, as well as international versions of the project. He’s also taken PostSecret on the road for a continuing series of inspirational talking tours on college campuses.

“I would say for me the most meaningful parts of the project are these live PostSecret events,” Warren said. “I feel like it’s the highest manifestation of the project.”

The live multimedia event includes video and music, the presentation of postcards that were previously banned from the books by the publishers and personal stories of individuals brought together by secrets and discussion of common themes to these secrets, such as suicide, through the reading of final messages left on smart phones. Warren estimates that a majority of his online audience is under the age of 25.

“Young people are my favorite audience to have, they’re so much more alive,” Warren said. “I think they’re kind of at that place in their life, and I think there’s an honest search for what’s true, and what’s authentic, and what’s bullsh-t.”

On the internet, Warren creates a safe, non-judgmental place to open up to strangers, a feeling that he recreates live when halfway through the event he invites audience members to walk up to the microphone and share a secret they have never revealed to anyone.

“It’s extraordinary what people share,” Warren said. “The secrets can make you laugh, they can bring a tear to your eye, they can be hopeful, they can be confessions of grace or hidden acts of kindness, and for me that’s the most emotional and memorable part of the PostSecret live event for sure.”

Warren recalls a recent episode from a college tour, when a girl approached the microphone and told how, because her mailed secret had not been posted on the website, she took it upon herself to take action and reveal her eating disorder to her friends and classmates by making and wearing a shirt warning about the symptoms of anorexia.

“She found this beautiful, powerful way to share her secret creatively in a way that I think may have helped dozens or hundreds of people on that campus who might have been struggling in silence with an eating disorder,” Warren said. “I think that’s the potential that we all carry when we find the strength to share our secrets with others – it allows us to be more connected and let other people know that they’re not alone with their secret.”

A book signing and the opportunity to speak with Warren will follow the live event.

“I always try to treat people’s secrets with respect and dignity, in a non-judgmental way. I feel very fortunate that over a half million people have trusted me with their confessions, and they keep coming – hundreds every week from all over the world.”

The PostSecret Live event is Tuesday at 8 p.m. in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $10 for students and $20 for adults.

Story: LOVEY COOPER, Senior A&E Reporter