The secrets are real.
Katherine Sullivan holds them in her hand, pulls them out of her bag.
Even if there are only 15 postcards, on them are real people’s hidden truths.
Sullivan, 26, started Moab PostSecret to help people work through a hardship.
“People can feel so isolated going through a traumatic experience,” she said, “when, really, they’re so common. There can be a lot of pressure in a small town to keep secrets as such.”
Sullivan wanted people to feel not so alone. Her project is modeled after PostSecret, a national ongoing community art project where people mail in their secrets anonymously on one side of a postcard. It has become a popular website – www.postsecret.com – and several books have been published. Its creator goes on speaking tours across the country.
Sullivan, who is studying human resources atUtahStateUniversity, came toMoabfour years ago fromMt. Vernon,Iowa, for an internship atArchesNational Park.
She’s still here, working now as an administrative assistant at Seekhaven, which provides services for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Sullivan has been a PostSecret fan for some time and thought Moab might just be big enough to support a local version.
So last fall, she applied for a grant from WabiSabi to help get Moab’s version of PostSecret off the ground.
She got it. She used the money to buy supplies. Sullivan bought 2,000 blank white postcards, crayons, colored pencils, markers and stickers.
She made 8 ½ x 11-inch fliers with postcards stuck in an attached pocket. She hung 30 of those around town.
She’s advertised on the local radio station and in a local publication. She’s been to a career fair at Grand County High School.
She hopes to work with the after-school program at the middle school, too, and maybe with Seekhaven.
People either get it or they don’t, she said. It’s definitely been a mixed bag of reactions.
“It’s a funny concept for people who haven’t heard about it,” Sullivan said. “But I think it’s really valuable. It’s so important to remember that whatever issue you’re facing, people have dealt with it before and survived.”
Sullivan’s gotten only a handful of postcards so far. One person’s secret was about liking Lady GaGa, another’s was about not caring if his or her stepdad died. One said, “I can love myself again.”
Sullivan would like to get enough postcards to turn them into a public display of art. She’d love to have an exhibit during an upcoming Art Walk.
But she’s content to wait and see, satisfied with the knowledge that even a few people have been helped by creating a postcard.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “I just imagine the catharsis this must have provided. I feel really lucky. Even if there’s only 15 of them, that feels pretty good.”
The freedom of anonymous expression is a powerful piece of this project, said Amie Whipple, Seekhaven’s outreach and education coordinator.
Whipple accompanied Sullivan to the high school’s career fair. Most of the students really liked it, she said.
“I think it’s a positive thing because it gives people a chance to maybe talk about these things or share things in their life that they’ve never been able to share before,” Whipple said. “Maybe it’s something funny, but they haven’t had the opportunity to share or put it out there.”
For more information, e-mail Sullivan at email@example.com. Look for the postcards on fliers at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center, WabiSabi Thriftique and elsewhere.