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Active Minds at BU hosts PostSecret founder Frank Warren last Thursday

Frank Warren labels himself as a “trusted stranger” — and with good reason.

He is the sole founder of PostSecret, a community art project started in 2005 featuring a collection of “secrets” anonymously mailed to Warren on a postcard and shared on the PostSecret blog. On Nov. 6, Warren came to the Boston University College of General Studies for “PostSecret Live,” a multimedia event hosted by Active Minds at BU, a student organization that seeks to increase mental health awareness on campus and within the Boston area.

Frank Warren, founder of online community art project PostSecret, gives a presentation as part of a "PostSecret Live" event at the Harvard Cooperative Society on Nov. 3. PHOTO BY NAVRAJ NARULA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Frank Warren, founder of online community art project PostSecret, gives a presentation as part of a “PostSecret Live” event at the Harvard Cooperative Society on Nov. 3. PHOTO BY NAVRAJ NARULA/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

“Active Minds at Boston University has always wanted to host Frank Warren, but we assumed it was too big of a goal to achieve,” said Raisa-Dielle Riikonen, a junior in the School of Management and president of Active Minds, who was approached by the national Active Minds nonprofit about hosting the event at BU. “We were very happy to be proven wrong.”

Riikonen said Warren’s project encourages conversations about the issues that people face on a day-to-day basis, with an emphasis on mental health issues.

“It [PostSecret] creates an open forum for participants to express their secrets, regrets, fears, desires and talents,” she said. “It lets people know that they are not alone and that they should speak up and reach out for help if needed. It also fosters a more open and connected community.”

Warren’s presentation at BU was just part of a current college and university tour to promote the newest PostSecret book, “The World of PostSecret,” released Nov. 4. Other stops included the Fashion Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University.

Warren started off “PostSecret Live” at the Harvard Cooperative Society on Nov. 3 by holding up a silver metal box filled with postcards.

“We each keep our secrets in a box. I sometimes call it a coffin,” he said. “In the end, we decide what we want to do with our [secrets].”

With that, Warren started off by explaining how PostSecret was started. Several years ago, he stood on the streets of Washington, D.C. at night and attempted to solicit secrets from strangers. His mother called this act “diabolical.” In regard to this glimpse into his past, Warren joked that his success has come to from “making art that one of my parents think is okay and the other thinks is…the work of the devil.”

As he began to scan secrets during these beginning stages of what would become PostSecret, Warren said he had an epiphany.

“There are two kinds of secrets: ones that we keep from others and ones that we keep from ourselves,” he said.

But throughout the evening, Warren emphasized that nobody is alone with his or her secret. To demonstrate the truth of this claim, he displayed a secret with an image of a hole-ridden door. The secret read: “The holes are from when my mom tried knocking down my door so she could continue to beat me.”

After scanning that particular secret onto his website, Warren received images in response to that secret, all featuring bedroom doors that had been broken in some way or another.

Warren said his project allows people to find the courage to be vulnerable.

Before handing the microphone to audience members to share their own secrets, Warren left the crowd with a word of encouragement: “If you can find a way through it — through art, God or anything — when you come out of it on the other side, you’ll be transformed. You will be closer to the person you are supposed to be.”

No matter how bad things can get, Warren said, he refuses to consider wishing those parts of life away.

“We gain gifts from suffering,” he said.

Frank Warren’s PostSecret blog has been active for nearly 10 years. Warren encourages anyone interested in sharing a secret to send him a postcard to 13345 Copper Ridge Road, Germantown, Maryland, 20874.

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