The “You Are Beautiful” interactive exhibit will be at the mall until June 21.
It’s been 20 years since Chicago-based artist Matthew Hoffman created a three-word sticker in hopes of spreading self-acceptance through public art. “You Are Beautiful” started something of a passion project, with 100 silver stickers printed in 2002.
The project has grown since then and has now evolved into a full-fledged traveling exhibit that is currently on display outside the Crate & Barrel store at Fashion Place Mall in Murray, Utah.
“I grew up in the Midwest,” says Hoffman, who was in attendance at the grand opening ceremony on June 4, “I moved to Chicago in 2002 and that was the first time I was on my own in a big urban environment. It was super exciting, but also overwhelming.
To help you feel lost in the visual and sound chaos of a city, he decides to make his stickers and create small street art installations.
“Now it’s a full-time business, where I have staff and we have a building in Chicago,” Hoffman says. “We’ve printed 8.5 million stickers in hundreds of different languages that have traveled around the world.”
His goal with the original project rings true today also with the next exhibition: to make people feel a little less lost and alone. “My favorite thing to do in life is to make public art, it’s there, accessible to everyone.”
In partnership with Brookfield Properties, which bills itself as “one of the world’s largest property managers,” the show will travel to eight different cities across the country. Murray is the second.
The exhibit includes positive affirmation stickers displayed along the walkway between the mall entrance and the exhibit area, with phrases such as “you’re brilliant”, “you’re hopeful” and “you are amazing”. On either side of the framed area, there are walls with stickers similar to name tags.
“It’s kind of this whole interpersonal group dynamic,” Hoffman says of the setup, “all the different ways we look at ourselves and each other.”
Inside, on one side, there is a wall filled with labels that visitors can fill in themselves, stating what they want. On the other side, a mirror wall with the words “we are beautiful”.
On grand opening day it gets busy, kids and adults alike try to put on their own labels, as well as make bouquets of free fresh flowers through Los Angeles-based partner Brand Like That . There’s a station where people can also paint their own succulents, as well as cookies with affirmation sticker words and lemonade.
String FX, an SLC-based electric string quartet, performed covers of pop songs on violin, giving the whole event a Bridgerton-esque feeling.
Hoffman says each location will have a local partner they collaborate with. Although the bright colors and positive affirmations correspond to Pride Month for the LGBTQ community, he says it’s a “wonderful coincidence” that the dates lined up that way.
He hopes that even if people are just passing by and decide not to stop, his exhibit will remind them to celebrate the little moments.
“I think it’s amazing that you can see this message and the idea is that it’s for you in that moment and you can take it on any journey you want,” Hoffman says. .
His brainchild of public art exceeded his imagination in 20 years. There are more than three words of positive affirmation, but, he says, the best part is seeing the bonds his idea has formed across the world.
So far, Utahns say they are: strong, unforgettable, fearless, loving, beautiful, and smug.
The “You Are Beautiful” exhibit will be on display at Fashion Place Mall through June 21.
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