Listen, do you want to know a secret?

There are lots on display in an extraordinary, revealing exhibit now on display at the Quad City Arts gallery in downtown Rock Island. As part of “PostSecret” through Dec. 2, 2022), the public is invited to create their own “secret” postcards which are available at Quad City Arts, 1715 2nd Ave., Rock Island; Clock, Inc., 4102 46th Ave., Rock Island, and the following libraries: Bettendorf, Davenport, Eldridge, DeWitt, East Moline, Moline, Rock Island, and Silvis. 

These postcards can be dropped off or mailed to Quad City Arts, where they may be included in the exhibition. 

One of the images in the Quad City Arts exhibit.

The enlarged postcards displayed currently include the following messages:

  • “I love my husband because he’s the only man who hasn’t hurt my body with violence.”
  • “I worry about how polarized and reactionary everyone is.”
  • “No one knows the real me.”
  • “I was seven years old the first time I attempted suicide.”
  • “I am a peaceful person who happens to be filled with violent rage.”
  • “For the first time since I was a baby I am finally happy. I am 28.”
  • “I am strongly anti-corporate but I secretly eat Fish-O-Filets at McDonald’s.”

As part of the local exhibit, PostSecret founder Frank Warren will speak at Pleasant Valley High School Auditorium, 604 Belmont Rd., Bettendorf, on Wednesday, Nov. 9 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Admission is $10.

Frank Warren started PostSecret in 2004, and his website has attracted over 860 million visits.

Warren (who went to high school in Springfield, Ill., and college in southern California) started PostSecret in 2004 as a community art project where he invited total strangers to anonymously mail in their secrets on a homemade postcard. This simple act sparked a global phenomenon.

He has received over 1 million secrets in his California mailbox with more arriving every day but Sunday. has won seven Webby Awards and is the most visited advertisement-free blog in the world with more than 860 million visits.

One of the secrets at the “PostSecret” exhibit at Quad City Arts in downtown Rock Island.

The largest segment of the population that has sent secrets are young women, Warren said in a Friday interview.

Connecting in a powerful way

“So young people and females really connect to the project in a powerful way. And I see it again and again,” he said. “I know in my own life when I was in high school and college, I felt a sense of isolation and lack of direction. and I was really kind of searching for what was really my own identity, what was true.

An image in the PostSecret exhibit at Quad City Arts, 1715 2nd Ave., Rock Island.

“I think a project like PostSecret allows people to ask those questions and respond in real honest ways, which I think young people are hungry for,” Warren said. “There’s a lot of interaction on social media. Some people would say it’s sharing your intimacy. But I think when you write something anonymously on a postcard and physically let it go, that gives you an opportunity to realize, share some deep feelings and emotions from your heart.”

Sending in secrets help people feel less alone, he said.

“This is my experience talking about it, that it makes us all stronger,” Warren said. “Secrets are not in isolation. They’re part of the conversation.”

The postcards have been curated for six New York Times bestselling books and have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art, The Smithsonian, and the American Visionary Art Museum and currently at the Museum of Us in San Diego, Calif. Known as “the most trusted stranger in America,” Warren has traveled the world sharing secrets and stories from Australia to Taiwan.

One of the images at the Quad City Arts exhibit.

There is a PostSecret album, a PostSecret app, a PostSecret TED Talk, and a PostSecret Play. Frank was awarded the ‘HopeLine Lifetime Achievement Award’ for his work on suicide prevention and was invited to the White House to work on issues of mental wellness.

Improving mental health

PostSecret has become a tool in improving people’s mental health and preventing suicide (which is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-14 and 25-34).

An image in the new exhibit.

There were 45,979 U.S. suicide deaths in 2020, according to the CDC. The number of people who think about or attempt suicide is even higher. In 2020, an estimated 12.2 million American adults seriously thought about suicide, 3.2 million planned a suicide attempt, and 1.2 million attempted suicide.

“I feel issues like mental illness, anxiety, isolation, self-harm – they’re secrets we keep from ourselves in America – and by not talking about those issues, it just makes them worse,” Warren said.

“The burden that people feel when they carry them is greater; the stigma discourages people from asking for help, when hope and help are available in many, many places,” he said. “So it’s been an important part of PostSecret and in fact, the PostSecret community as a whole has raised over a million dollars for suicide prevention, and I’m very proud of that.”

Warren hopes the project allows people to keep the conversation going.

“The first thing is to know that hope and help are available. The next step is to create a toolbox that people can use to help themselves and to help others,” he said.

What’s surprising is that two-thirds of students considering suicide will tell one of their friends they are thinking about hurting themselves before they’ll tell a parent or teacher, Warren said.

Giving kids proper tools

“So if we can put these toolkits into the hands of students and let them know they don’t have to be an expert, they just have to be a friend and let them know the questions they can ask and how they can be there the best way possible for their friends,” he said. “That can make a big difference.”

One of the cards on display at Quad City Arts.

The PostSecret invitation is to share a secret that you haven’t told anyone before – to reveal anything as long as it’s true. People are asked to be brief, legible and creative (including the use of art or photos). The cards can be mailed to Post Secret at 28241 Crown Valley Parkway, #F224, Laguna Niguel, CA 92677.

“I think of PostSecret as punk art, as people’s art,” Warren said. “I’ve been thrilled to be invited to the Quad Cities.”

Nearly all the postcards come with art on them, he said, noting Quad City Arts was sent large high-resolution images that were put on display. At each exhibit, the public is invited to share their own secret.

“If they choose to be inspired, to write on a postcard right there, let it go and create some of the art that’s going to be in the exhibit,” Warren said. “It’s that conversation idea again.”

** Contact the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline if you are experiencing mental health-related distress or are worried about a loved one who may need crisis support.