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/

Volunteering Beats The Holiday Blues

Help Yourself by Helping Others - Words Pinned on Board

Volunteering Beats the Holiday Blues

During the holiday season so many people experience depression and isolation. I remember when I got divorced and the first time I did not have my kids for Thanksgiving, it was devastating. I cried and cried. I went to the movies and sat through a double feature. After 4 hours I could not tell you one thing about the movies.  I was just in this horrible dark place and nothing could get through. I went to a twelve step meeting and they talked about service. When you are depressed do something for someone else. So I took their advice and I went to Michaels and got some art supplies and I took them over to the local hospital.  I did feel better. I talked to some of the nurses at their station and they were so excited to have them. Since then I try and do it every holiday…now I bring cookies to the emergency room.

Over the past two decades there is a growing body of research that indicates volunteering provides individual health benefits in addition to social ones. This research,  “The Health Benefits of Volunteering: A Review of Recent Research,”  established a strong relationship between volunteering and health: those who volunteer had lower mortality rates, greater functional ability, and lower rates of depression later in life than those who do not volunteer.

            The Benefits of Volunteering:

  1. Model  civic responsibility for your children
  2. You get to give back to your community
  3. Learn to solve real problems
  4. Connect to others in meaningful ways
  5. Save valuable resources
  6. Build self-esteem and confidence
  7. Reduces stress and make yourself healthier and happier
  8. Get to learn something new
  9. Improve your leadership skills

Finally, you get to transform your own life and make a difference in the world.

volunteering

There is still time to find ways and opportunities to serve over the next month. Look into your heart and see where it will lead. Just ask how may I serve? When you help someone else you help yourself.

Here are a few suggestions to get started.

  1. Call the VA hospital in your area and see what they need or if there any activities you could help with.
  2. Call a homeless shelter and ask what they need.
  3. Bring your dog to a senior center.
  4. Call the Salvation Army to see if they will be delivering meals or serving meals during the holidays and if you could volunteer to help with either activity.
  5. Collect hats, gloves and blankets to distribute to the homeless
  6. Send letters and cards to the armed forces.
  7. Speak with the volunteering coordinator at your local hospital. Ask her if it would be okay for you to make get well cards for all the children in the pediatric unit that will be there during the holiday.
  8. Mentor a child
  9. Make baked goods and, on the holiday, drop by places that might have someone working — animal shelter staff, police, firefighters — and distribute them with your best wishes

 

Take action: Volunteer today. Please share how volunteering made a difference in your life.