Artist unveils 'loveevenmore' scuplture in West Chicago
Matthew Hoffman is the kind of creative soul who would get restless going for a walk.
He's constantly creating, constantly empowering the people who encounter his art in random, public places. What began as a passion project on nights and weekends -- spreading "You Are Beautiful" stickers around Chicago -- has grown into a global movement, full-time job for Hoffman and even a company that employs fellow artists in its new headquarters.
Oh, and Oprah is a fan.
"It's my way of exploring new places, and also, I kind of always have to be working," the 39-year-old said. "So to take a relaxing walk is kind of out of the question. But if you're going with stickers and on a mission, than you can kind of relax and do a little work, and the two kind of come together."
His stickers and installations are as uplifting as they are universal. There's no tagline or any kind of byline identifying Hoffman as the artist.
And such is the case with his latest piece and the second he's designed in the suburbs: A 9-foot steel sculpture spelling "loveevenmore" in cursive font on the front lawn of the West Chicago Public Library.
"It's beautiful. I'm proud to have something that Matthew has done here in West Chicago," Mayor Ruben Pineda said.
The city's art community gathered outside the library Wednesday night to unveil the sculpture and host a reception for Hoffman, whose message of humanity has come to represent the work of another campaign: the city's One West Chicago initiative to embrace communitywide diversity.
"West Chicago has really always wrapped its arms around different cultures," said Sara Phalen, director of the city museum. "We had an early German bilingual population in the city, and now we have a large Spanish-speaking population, and it's always been celebrated. And 'love even more' is the perfect embodiment and model that we can use to teach other communities how they can really love each other even more."
Phalen co-founded the nonprofit People Made Visible with conceptual artist Anni Holm to support the city's growing art scene. Both also are members of the West Chicago Cultural Arts Commission, a group of volunteers who are working on a master plan to identify historically significant and prominent sites around the city for new public art installations.
As commission chairwoman, Holm, a native of Denmark, reached out to Hoffman about two years ago to design a city-funded sculpture for West Chicago's public art collection. The commission would later receive support from library leaders to place the sculpture fabricated by G.E. Mathis Company in front of the building on a busy stretch of Washington Street.
"It's also just a great meeting spot that's right in the heart of downtown and in the historic part of downtown to celebrate such a message of 'love even more' in our community," Phalen said.
How does Hoffman's creative mind work? He used to jot down ideas for his art in sketchbooks. Now, he keeps a list of concepts in his phone.
"Now when I look through that list of ideas, if it's still like a month later and it resonates with me, than I feel like I'm really onto something," Hoffman said.
He was really onto something in 2002 when he started the "You Are Beautiful" campaign with about 100 stickers. Hoffman was starting a graphic design job in Chicago, his first time living in a "big city" after growing up in small towns in Indiana and Ohio.
"It's easy to feel alone in that chaos, so I just wanted to make a quiet calming message in that big conversation," Hoffman said.
He's never had any expectations for his "You Are Beautiful" project and still doesn't even after an episode of Oprah's "SuperSoul Sunday" featured it and even as it's about to celebrate a major milestone of sending 5 million stickers around the world.
"I've never really had any and maybe that's been it's success," said Hoffman, whose company flagship off Elston Avenue in Chicago will open a retail store of You Are Beautiful art and apparel in September. "There's never been a plan, and there's also never been expectations, and I still don't have any. So if it continues to grow, and we continue to be able to grow the studio and employ more people and print more stickers around the world and do more installations around the world -- wonderful," Hoffman said.
"And if it is just me as an old man stuffing a few stickers in an envelope and sending them out to a few people, that's fine too. It's great no matter what as long as we're bringing positivity to the world."
And that's exactly what he's doing in West Chicago with "loveevenmore," his first steel sculpture.
"It feels like every time you turn on the news, everything is so negative, and everyone's at each other's throats, and so I think we'd all do a little better if we just kind of approach as many situations as possible with kindness and love," he said.