Surely, you’ve seen the various “You Are Beautiful” messages created by Chicago artist Matthew Hoffman.
This weekend, Hoffman will install a mural with that positive message at the former site of the Renaissance Bookshop at 834 N. Plankinton Ave., currently vacant and awaiting a new development from New Land.
The temporary image will be mounted on a plywood wall running along the site, beginning on Friday, April 16 and wrapping up the following day to coincide with Westown Association’s “Team Up Clean Up” event.
Hoffman launched the “You Are Beautiful” project in 2002 with 100 stickers and a desire to help people feel better every day.
In the nearly two decades since, more than 3 million stickers have been distributed worldwide and numerous art installations have gone up around the world.
“We were drawn to the project for its positivity,” says Gabriel Yeager, Downtown Environment Specialist with Milwaukee Downtown. “Looking over previous installations in other cities, it was easy to visualize how the mural would come together to make a beautiful impact in the Postman Square neighborhood.”
New Land was planning a low-rise timber office building for the site of the former bookstore, deconstructed in 2017, but has, in the short term, focused its energy instead on the much larger Ascent, going up a few blocks east of the river.
Last year, New Land’s Tim Gokhman said of the Plankinton site, “We're working on it. It's counterintuitive but it's more challenging than Ascent. It's just a small site. There's a lot of math to be done on what is the right-size building.”
So, for now, the space will house a very visible reminder of the power of positive thinking.
“This is a necessary statement right now, and one that evokes such a strong emotional connection that you may find yourself going out of your way to pass the mural,” says New Land's Manager of Development and Strategy Richard Hawkins. “It’s a joy to share that kind of art with our beautiful city and its beautiful people.
“Black Cat Alley was one of the first places we really saw the power of public art become a tangible force. It was a great community collaboration and New Land was thrilled to be involved, transforming defunct alley space into a dynamic and engaging Milwaukee destination.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.