In October, students packed Old Cabell Hall to hear from Frank Warren, who’s been described as “the most trusted stranger in America.” Warren collects secrets by the truckload, sent to him by people he’s never met.
A community art project he calls PostSecret—which began in 2005 when Warren passed out self-addressed postcards and asked people to anonymously mail their secrets to him—has evolved into something of a cultural phenomenon. Approximately 1,000 secrets per week arrive at his home in Germantown, Md., adding to his grand total of more than 200,000, many of which he’s published in four PostSecret books.
In a National Public Radio interview earlier this year, Warren explained the postcards reveal a reality that’s hidden “beneath the surface that really shows us how frail and heroic our everyday lives really are, although they often go unseen.”
The project caught the attention of two students, Courtney Mallow (Col ’10) and James Burney (Col ’09), who are the co-directors of the Arts & Enrichment Committee, a part of the University Programs Council. After inviting Warren to visit the University, they solicited secrets from their fellow students and created an exhibit of the cards they’d collected to coincide with his appearance.
“The exhibit serves as a forum for students to share their deepest, darkest secret with the world, without telling anyone at all,” says Mallow. “People are able to connect anonymously and realize that other people may be feeling the same way they do.”
Mallow adds that the exhibit included information about UVA’s health and counseling resources because the “secrets raise very intense feelings and issues.” The exhibit featured hundreds of secrets, nearly covering the walls of the Newcomb Hall Art Gallery. The cards ranged from humorous to heartbreaking. Here are just a few.