Brent Walker, creator of the Hidden South, is gifted at discovering hidden treasures. His career as a photographer and location scout honed his skills in discovering secret places. But his sixth sense of discovery extends beyond places and objects. Brent sees hidden treasures in people cast off by society.
As a recovering addict for over two decades, Brent believes lives headed for destruction can be redirected and restored. He is living proof. While scouting, he befriended dozens of folks in the grip of addiction who directed him to hidden locations and shared their secret stories. These encounters inspired him to use his artistic gifts to tell stories to inspire empathetic change.
In 2016, his first book, The Hidden South—Come Home, was published. Through stunning portraiture and intimate conversations, Brent took the reader on a journey uncovering stories of heartbreak and addiction. But where others saw hopelessness, Brent saw hope. For two and a half years, Brent road-tripped across the Southeast United States to promote his book at county fairs and markets. This was the genesis of the Hidden South Confessional Box.
Brent created a wooden box where people anonymously deposited their hidden secrets. Often, they sat down with Brent and talked about what they had written. Everywhere he went, the box filled. Brent knew the Hidden South Confessional needed a home.
In 2021, Brent opened the Hidden South, a curated retail space filled with unique antiques, outsider art, and oddities that sits ten minutes from New Orleans French Quarter. Brent refers to this repurposed home, filled with weird furniture, exciting ephemera, outsider art, and hard-to-find antiques, as his ever-growing art project. In the center of this unique store sits a room dedicated to the Hidden South Confessional. A sign on the door reads: “This room is filled with secrets that anonymous humans have left. You may enter and read the secrets and leave your anonymous secret if you’d like.” The walls of this former bathroom are covered with handwritten notes from hundreds of people who have left humorous, hard, hopeful, and heartbreaking confessions. The Confessional exists because Brent believes that sharing your deepest darkest secret can be a step towards healing, and reading other people’s secrets can help us feel connected.
The Hidden South Confessional is a place to begin healing or relieve oneself of the secret you have been dying to tell but did not know who to tell. If you want to peruse a cool shop or unload your soul, the Hidden South Confessional is a stop for you. As Brent says, “The one thing that helps folks is a purpose. I hope that the Hidden South can facilitate giving purpose to some.”
Know Before You Go
The Hidden South is located in Arabi, ten minutes outside of the French Quarter. Open every day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Brent brings in local artists to run workshops like the Sunday Mourning Workshop, a healing art session in which participants create a one-of-a-kind work of art out of found objects based on an experience or person that they need to grieve.