NORWOOD PARK — Drivers stuck in traffic on the Kennedy Expressway will now be able to glance up and get a dose of positivity thanks to Chicago artist Matthew Hoffman and Taft High School.
Hoffman, the Chicago artist who has created art installations featuring the simple phrase "You Are Beautiful" throughout the world, brought his work to Taft thanks to Brenda Arteaga, a senior who graduated earlier this month.
"We're hoping everyone driving down the Kennedy and visiting Chicago from the airport will get a welcoming message," said Taft Principal Mark Grishaber.
Arteaga heard about the other "You Are Beautiful" projects in Englewood, Andersonville and Beverly, and urged Hoffman to bring his project designed to spread positive vibes and help people feel less alone in Chicago to the Northwest Side.
At first, the plan developed by Taft Art Department Chairwoman Bridget Doherty-Trebing called for the giant white letters to be installed on the school's fence, as Hoffman has done in other parts of the city.
"We tossed around other ideas, and someone said how great it would be to put it on the building so everyone could see it from the expressway," Hoffman said. "Then the question became — how are we going to get up there?"
Crews that completed a $17 million renovation of the school in 2014 agreed to pitch in, and attached the 8-foot tall white letters hand drawn by Hoffman with a Sharpie marker and enlarged with a computer to the top of the southwest corner of the three-story Old Building at Taft.
"I helped adjust the spacing of the uppercase letters, but I didn't go up there," Hoffman said, laughing.
The installation —on Friday at Taft, 6530 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., is Hoffman's highest work of art — and his biggest.
Chicago Public Schools officials covered the cost of the installation, and the school's art department raised $3,500 to cover the cost of the materials, Grishaber said.
The "You Are Beautiful" project started as stickers that Hoffman distributed to anyone who would take them. Now the stickers are plastered around the globe as far away as the Great Wall of China.
Hoffman has said that he delights in viewers' personal responses to his work.
"If you ask 100 people what [You Are Beautiful] means to them, you get 100 different answers," Hoffman said. "That's the beauty of it."
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