Friday, August 27, 2010

the best kept secret..

So I wanted to do a posting on one of my favorite art projects ever created, PostSecret. I'm sure I am one of millions who have been impacted by this ongoing exhibit and thought I would do everyone else a favor and introduce them if they haven't already indulged.

A little background:

The project was founded in 2005 by a man named Frank Warren. At the start of this project, people thought he was insane - a man standing in the streets of Washington D.C. handing out blank postcards and introducing himself like this, "Hi. My name is Frank. I'm collecting secrets." Every postcard he handed out was addressed to himself and included postage. And he didn't ask you to send them to the blahblahblah headquarters or some P.O. box. He asked you to send them to his personal home in Germantown, Maryland. The project seemed to be crawling at first - most people were apprehensive to join in and release such vulnerable information to a stranger. But slowly, people began to catch on. To this date, he has received millions of postcards all decorated and formatted uniquely. He receives so many postcards per week, that he posts new secrets to his website each Sunday. Whether it's a deep skeleton from someone's closet or a small detail someone's too embarrassed to admit, Frank collects these secrets of all shape and sizes. But he doesn't KEEP their secrets. No, he releases them to the public. These secrets perhaps help other people who are fighting the same demons. Or perhaps they provide a certain amount of release to the senders - getting something off their chest without nessescarily owning up to it. Frank also publishes collections of these secrets in book form. So far, five have been released. They can be picked up from most book stores for around $30 to $50 each. This might sound like a big investment to some, but it might help to know that all profits Frank receives from the selling of these books goes to a foundation also dedicated to helping humanity, 1-800-SUICIDE. 

My personal experience with PostSecret:

In the fall of 2008, Frank Warren visited UNCW to give a talk to students about PostSecret. He opened the talk with how he got the idea to create PostSecret and the struggle to get the project off the ground initially. He was such a down to earth guy with a smooth conversational way of speaking to such a huge audience. After he finished explaining exactly how his project started, he began to give us a series of anecdotes from his experiences ever since.

One funny story that he shared with us still sticks out in my mind: Someone had mailed in a secret on a bag of coffee (I forget now what the secret even was). Later, while giving a similar talk to a group of students on another campus, he mentioned this unique secret to the crowd when one student spoke up. "How was the coffee?" As it turns out, the sender of the mysterious bag of coffee was sitting right in front of Frank.

Frank Warren has gone and done something great. He has taken several piles of blank postcards and used it to impact millions of people. For such a remarkable man, he was also a humble one. After his talk I stood in line with my copies of his books in hand. I had been following this man for several years and finally got the chance to meet him! I remember telling him that he had taken art and used it to heal people's lives and that I'm sure he can't understand the impact he's had on so many. His reply was that perhaps I could go and do something better.