Matthew Hoffman Uses Art to Change Chicago

by Ariel Parrella-Aureli

by Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Matthew Hoffman Uses Art to Change Chicago by  guest blogger Ariel Parrella-Aureli

Anybody walking the streets of Chicago knows they are beautiful—or at least has seen the large signs posted on fences, billboards and buildings. The bold, white ‘You Are Beautiful’ words can be seen plastered around the Andersonville, Englewood, Rogers Park, West Loop and Downtown neighborhoods, among many more, and are the created by the mastermind and custodian of the project Matthew Hoffman, a Chicago artist and designer.

 

What started out as a small idea blossomed into a global phenomenon, with Hoffman’s work being internationally recognized. Back in 2002, Hoffman started anonymously distributing small, unique ‘You Are Beautiful’ silver stickers all over Chicago to make life a little better and give people hope in times of disparity and violence that can surround Chicago and the world overall. His goal was not to be known, but to share a powerful message through easily visible art that could touch all kinds of people, regardless of ideals and backgrounds. Sending out this small but meaningful message got the attention of the community, and soon enough Hoffman was spreading his words onto bigger art installations throughout the city–in the form of murals, sculptures and sticker books.

 

Now—14 years later—with over 2 million stickers and art installations shared globally, Hoffman is seeing the large affect of a small idea, and is always working on new projects. Hoffman has since spread his entrepreneurial skills to colleges and universities, receiving grant money to create public artwork and partnering with local arts school Columbia College Chicago. In 2014 he helped the school with an interactive project that was part of the Wabash Arts Corridor, which showcases local mural and interactive artwork through the Loop neighborhood. In 2015 he was back at Columbia, this time talking to the community about not being afraid to fail and make something out of nothing, like he did. The talk was part of the college’s first Tedx event, which is the college edition of TEDTalks.

 by Bryan Allen Lamb

by Bryan Allen Lamb

 

He wants to make sure people know it is okay to fail in order to do better and reach your full potential. In the beginning of his artistic journey, the stickers he printed did not adhere properly and were printed in the wrong color. Small failures like this made him keep going in his art to make it better and more powerful to the public.

 

Especially for aspiring artists, muralists and designers, Hoffman’s words and career can be inspiring. He stresses the importance of looking at each failure as actually an opportunity—one that you can learn from and incorporate into the next step of your career. Whether an artist or a writer, those words can be uplifting to career-seekers in something they love—another strong point of Hoffman’s that paints his stubbornly confident character that has gotten him far.

 

A couple of years ago, Hoffman created a subscription called You Are Beautiful Everyday for his viewers who wanted more stickers. Hoffman said the series gives people 31 stickers a month that surround a monthly theme, and include appearances from local Chicago artists or notable figures that get their own spotlight for a month. The series makes the stickers more interactive for the viewers, which makes the project more powerful and personal for the community. People can get to know their neighbors and other stories within Chicago—a special way of uniting the people through something as simple as small stickers and words. Hoffman wants to engage people and give them something different and new that keeps them on their toes. The daily stickers are a way of doing this, and help people remember the simple goal of his project.

 

Another way of doing this is his involvement with the Design Museum of Chicago. When the executive director of the museum, Tanner Woodford, approached him for a different kind of project at the museum, Hoffman was all in. Enter the ‘You Are Beautiful’ hotline. The two paired up to create an experimental hotline where users could phone in and record uplifting messages or words of wisdom that contained the phrase “you are beautiful.” The goal was to repackage the You Are Beautiful idea in a new way for people to consume it in a different manner, and hear people’s stories about how the mantra had affected peoples’ lives. The January exhibit was displayed at the museum as recorded messaged for the public to hear.

 

These are just some of the side projects Matthew Hoffman dives into—not to mention his collaboration with local art studios, libraries and schools. Hoffman is always looking for artistic connection with other artists in Chicago. What makes Hoffman stand out—besides his social message and his trademark stickers—is his approachable, humble attitude that so many people relate with easily. Because he is loudly speaking what we all are feeling.

 

“Personally, I want to experience moments. To really feel all the highs and lows. In my work, I want to create moments for others. I do my thing, and they are able to feel whatever they need to in that moment.” – Matthew Hoffman, as said on his website, http://www.heyitsmatthew.com/

National Moment of Remembrance

WWII MEMORIAL"  STEPHEN BROWN COLLECTION

Memorial Day is a Federal holiday in the United States remembering the people who died while serving in the  armed forces. It began as Decoration Day after the civil war in 1868 in Decatur, Illinois, when an organization of Union veterans decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers.  Following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, many commemorative events took place including a more formal practice of decorating graves of soldiers as well as the creation of national military cemeteries., Memorial Day was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. In 2000, Congress passed the National Moment of Remembrance Act, asking people to stop and remember at 3:00 P.M

In March I was in Washington DC. And I took the evening monuments tour. It was the first time I had visited the National World War II Memorial which honors all 16 million people who served as part of the American armed forces, including the more than 400,000 who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. The memorial sits along the central vista of the National Mall, at the east end of the Reflecting Pool.

Public memorials and monuments attract millions of visitors each year throughout this country.  Memorials serve many functions such as preserving history, connecting us to those we lost, remembering, aiding in the grieving process, educating visitors.  Indeed, most Americans are familiar with the Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, Vietnam Wall, and other tributes in the nation’s capital and numerous memorials throughout the country.  America’s passion for public memorials began with the Washington Monument which was completed in 1885.

My favorite part of the tour was walking through the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. On the National mall, it is the fourth to honor a non-president and the first to honor a man of color. The memorial was designed as a lasting tribute to Dr. King’s legacy and will forever serve as a monument to the freedom, opportunity and justice for which he stood.                                                                                 ap_mlk_memorial_quote_kb_130723_16x9_992

”The centerpiece of the memorial is a 30-foot statue of Dr. King. His likeness is carved into the Stone of Hope, which emerges powerfully from two large boulders. The two boulders, which started as one, represent the Mountain of Despair. The boulders are split in half to give way to the Stone of Hope, which appears to have been thrust forward toward the horizon in a great monolithic struggle. The Stone of Hope and the Mountain of Despair together represent the soul-stirring words from Dr. King’s history-making “I Have a Dream” speech. On the visible side of the Stone of Hope, the text from King’s famed 1963 speech is cut sharply into the rock: “Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope.” Every visitor enters through the Mountain of Despair and tours the memorial as if moving through the struggle that Dr. King faced during his life. Visitors end in the open freedom of the plaza. The solitary Stone of Hope stands proudly in the plaza, where the civil rights leader gazes over the Tidal Basin toward the horizon, forever encouraging all citizens to strive for justice and equality.” – See more at: http://washington.org/article/martin-luther-king-jr-memorial#sthash.jQ1dVUT6.dpuf

On Memorial Day, the flag of the United States is raised briskly to the top of the staff and then solemnly lowered to the half-staff position, where it remains only until noon. It is then raised to full-staff for the remainder of the day who resolve their sacrifices were not in vain and that we continue to fight for liberty and justice for all.

As we honor our fallen heroes, consider what do you stand for. What do you want to be known and remembered for?

Protect Our Children

ncjw

April is Child Abuse Prevention month. It is a time to acknowledge the importance of individuals, families and communities working together to prevent child abuse and neglect, and to promote the social and emotional well-being of children and families Last month I had the privilege of marching on the hill in DC. with the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) telling the senators to Do Their Job. NCJW is committed to endorsing for laws, programs and services that protect children from abuse, neglect, bullying, exploitation, trafficking and violence. I urged Illinois Congressional leaders to fully fund the Runaway Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act to Illinois.

Every day in this country, youth run away from home, are kicked out, exiting juvenile detention centers or welfare systems with nowhere to go. According to the National Runaway Safeline (Formerly the National Runaway Switchboard,) between 1.6-2.8 million youth runaway each year in the United States.  Children can begin running as young as ages 10-14. The youngest are the most at-risk for the dangers of street life.

According to the National Runaway Safeline, children runaway because:

  • 47% of runaway youth report conflict between them and a parent/guardian in the home.
  • Over 50% of youth in shelters or on the streets reported that their parents told them to leave or knew they were leaving but did not care
  • 80% of runaway & homeless girls reported having been sexually or physically abuse.
  • 43% of runaway youth (girls and boys) reported physical abuse before leaving home.

marian wright edelman

For over four decades the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act (RYHA) provided three types of assistance to help communities deliver lifesaving supportive services for youth. The Basic Center Program provided shelter and basic necessities for younger children up to 21 days. The Transition Living Program is geared for older children 16-21 providing developmentally appropriate and readily accessible trauma informed services. The Street Outreach Programs provides service referral, crisis intervention at street locations and drop in centers.

 

In 2103 the money ran out. Since then state and local agencies have been attempting to fulfill those roles. But like many states, Illinois is cutting back on mental health services and needed care. Today with bipartisan support The Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act (s262/hr1179) would reauthorize and strengthen these three critical programs in addition to collecting trafficking data, adding a nondiscriminatory clause and increase the length of stay in Basic Center to 30 days, requiring suicide prevention services in transitional living programs

 

Runaway and homeless youth are especially vulnerable to becoming victims of trafficking and sexual exploitation.   Traffickers prey on their vulnerability. They say” I will take care of you. I can provide food and a place to stay. Let me help.” The National center for Missing and Exploited Children said 1 in 5 of the 11, 8000 runaways reported in 2015 they were likely to be victims of sex trafficking. Furthermore, 28% of the youth living on the street trade sex for basic needs such as food. A growing number of homeless youth identify as lesbian gay, bisexual or transgender. (LBGT): Data suggests they make up 40 percent of runaways today. This bill gives them protection from discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation or gender, much like Violence Against Women Act or Head Start. The non-discrimination language is key not re-victimize youth when seeking care

We know for forty years that RHYA has worked. Each year 25000 youth find shelter through the RHYA street outreach program. In 2104 after receiving trauma informed counseling and care, 85% of youth exited these programs and returned safely. In 2103, 72% of youth RHYA temporary housing reunited with their families.

In addition federal programs like this are cost effective. Homeless and runaway youth are disproportionality involved in public healthcare, juvenile justice systems. In 2009 the public cost of services for a homeless individual in Los Angeles, including shelter, health care was $2897 per month- significantly higher than $605 per month for residents in supportive housing. I know what it is like to be sexually abused. I did not run away but I know plenty of people who did. I know what I have spent on healing. The long term consequences of abuse, physical, mental and social are devastating. The actual dollars spent on additional health care is huge for the individual.  Studies indicate moving 500 youth from the juvenile justice system to transitional programs could save anywhere between 5 and 20 million dollars.

 

The modest investment in Runaway and Homeless Youth act programs has laid a foundation for a national system of services for our displaced youth. This essential program must continue. Please write your legislatures today and tell them to fully fund the Runaway and Homeless Youth and Trafficking Prevention Act.

 

 

 

 

 

What Would You Do With A Million Dollars?

 

Powerball Lottery Reaches Third Highest Jackpot

I joined a 31 day challenge recently to write 500 words a day. It is all about finding your authentic voice. What is the message and vision you have to share with people? This is my day one.

What would you do if someone handed you a million dollars?

Not too long ago the Powerball lottery prize was 1.6 billion dollars. People who never would consider buying a ticket did. In California we heard of people standing in the pouring rain for hours just to get a chance.  Have you really thought about what you would do with that money? How it would change your life, what could you do to change the world? Now I didn’t stand in the rain but I did buy a ticket.  Now my coach whom I love said why…you have the ability to create money. I said to accelerate my dreams.

Now I have always been a big picture thinker, one of my best skill sets. Over the last three years I have been encouraged to dream big, to stay in the question what would I love to express, to be, to do, or create in four areas of my life. The first is time money freedom, the second is creative expression or work in the world, the third is relationships and the fourth is wellness. It took some real soul searching to come up with a vision that truly was an authentic expression of my values. How many of us have lived our lives based on should, trying to please other people?  How often have we taken the “comfortable or safe path” because we are scared we might fail?

Now I have a big, bold, audacious vision. I want to engage, inspire and connect one million creative activists. What is a creative activist you ask? They are people like you and me who have embraced their personal gifts and power to create a better life for themselves, their families and community. They see a problem and look for a solution. They know the best way to foster change is being an example of what they would like to see. They share their voice, their stories so you know you are not alone.

I know how hard it is to share your story. Now those who know me now would never believe this but I was shy, retiring, I never had an opinion, I sat on the fence and waited to see how the wind blew. I usually agreed with the last person who spoke. If you know a bit about my background it might make sense.

As a child I was sexually abused by my grandfather from age 7-13. Now in those days no one talked about it, not on the news, no after school specials and if you grew up in my house you know that like Vegas whatever happens here stays here.  I was afraid no one would believe me, a pillar of the community could do that…so I kept quiet. I never told anyone until I was in my early twenties and I went to therapy for the first time.

Over the years I realized traditional talk therapy was not enough for me. I was surviving but not thriving. I would lay in bed after my kids would go to school and contemplate walking in front of a train. At night I would drown my sorrow, my grief and fear with pints of ice cream, cookies and cake.  I reached a critical point, I could not go on like that…I was going to live or die. I chose life.

I became a workshop junkie. I traveled the world in search of answers. They came much closer to home, actually they were inside me all the time.  My imagination, my intuition, my inspiration, my creative genius was there all the time. Over the years I just lost sight of it. Actually I put it away because one teacher said you are not a very good writer, a choir director  said mouth the words, my parents said you will never make a living being an artist. Where have you experienced this in your life? Who tried to set you straight? What did it cost you?

So I took out my crayons and began to scribble and doodle. I read a thousand self-help books and answered the questions in them. I created a gratitude and did well journal. I painted, took photographs of flowers, did body work, listened to music and I danced. Little by little I saw enormous changes. I felt better, I looked better, I had more energy, more confidence, I had a positive attitude, and my relationships got better. People asked what happened you seem different. I was different. As I let go of the past, when I embraced my gifts and talents when I asked how I can use this experience to make a difference in the world, my life opened up. I experienced more joy and a sense of well being and love.

You may be asking how this relates to being a lotto winner. A 2015 Camelot study group found that 44% of people who ever won large lottery prizes were broke within 5 years. Other studies suggest that lottery winners frequently suffer from a high incidence of depression, divorce, suicide and addictions. They don’t feel they deserve it. They often lack a clear vision for how they will use the money, how they will relate to their friends and family when they ask for money. They don’t have a good support team in place to help handle their finances. They never really considered how they can use their increased wealth to make a difference in the world.

Well I still play lotto. I believe in miracle, magic and a bold vision for success. I have a burning desire and a clear action plan to engage 1 million creative activists. I am international speaker sharing creativity as a path to personal and planetary healing. We have an online program that offers tips, tools and techniques to become a fearless thought leaders and a creative problem solver. We offer a community resource guide of “best practices, creative programs and solutions.”  Finally, hosting Dream a Better World television. Everyone has a story. I love creating a safe space for them to share their voice and vision.

I would love your comments. Thanks

Put Your Dreamer in Charge and Feel Really Good

beauty of your dreams

 

Put Your Dreamer In Charge and Feel Really Good

 

When you were a kid, you didn’t have any “real-world” duties, so it allowed you to spend your time inventing games, talking to imaginary friends, making tents out of blankets, being a superhero, a ballerina or an astronaut.  Basically doing whatever you wanted to do for most of the day. You lived in the realm of your imagination…you dreamed…A LOT.

Somewhere along the way your teachers said stop day dreaming, get serious, stop playing…and you did.  Now,  you have obligations and responsibilities that help make sure that everything runs smoothly. You map out logistics and build routines that create a sense of comfort, security and stability for you and your family. You have serious goals but are you really happy?

While those elements are essential to being a grown-up, we still need to dream and play and creatively express ourselves in order to maintain our sanity and build a life worth living. Scientific studies have proven that play does a body good. When we play, we send a beautiful chemical called endorphins cascading through our bodies, which makes us feel really good. Getting into a state of dreaming  and wonder opens us up to new possibilities. Creative expression allows us to generate new ideas and inspire new conversations and instills in us a general sense of well being.

Here are a few simple steps to help you put your dreamer back in the driver’s seat.

  1. Play Like A Child. Maybe doing cartwheels is no longer in your wheelhouse, but you can still run across an open field with your arms out like an airplane. You can sit on  swing and reach for the stars. You can lay on the grass and imagine the passing clouds as mermaids or castles in the sky.
  1. Love Your Friends. Before we learned to guard ourselves against rejection and heartache, we laughed openly with our friends, told them how awesome they were, and gave them lots of hugs. Guess what…you can still do all that. We need physical contact to feel connected to something other than ourselves and to feel a little less alone, especially in times of need. Hugs reduce the levels of cortisol in the body and lowers our stress level and therefore improves our mood. AND IT IS FREE.
  2. Creatively express yourself. We were all born creative  that is until someone told us “cows weren’t purple. If you want to be taken seriously you need that power suit.”  Creativity is your authentic soul yearning to be free. Take some time and scribble and doodle with crayons and see what emerges. Indulge your senses with a new cologne, find an accessory that says clearly who you are. You can put on your favorite dance music and rock out. Try out a new recipe for a spinach souffle or a decadent chocolate cake. Creative expression is your birthright.creativity1
  3. Be Curious. All too often we let our brain go on autopilot through rigid thinking.Don’t rush through your day, rather indulge in wonder. Ask open ended questions. What would I love? What feels better? What can I do with what I have to to experience more joy and happiness?
  4. Dream BIGGER.  Sure, it makes sense to put “realistic” goals on your list, but what about your “impossible” dreams? Let your imagination run wild and your curiosity guide you…What if you could end world hunger? What if you could have numerous homes all over the world? What is you could make the world safer for women and girls? What if you could  make a fabulous living only working four hours a day? Or lead the cause that ended global warming?   Let your mind become limitless again…and just see what happens.

One of the biggest keys to happiness is to do the things that you enjoy. Chances are, they are the simple things you’ve done ever since you were a kid.

 

How will you put YOUR dreamer in charge TODAY?

Join the creative activist community and collaborate with other big picture thinkers. Share your big dreams on https://www.facebook.com/groups/CreativeActivists/