116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — You are beautiful.
That’s the simple message displayed on a new public art installation in downtown Cedar Rapids on the side of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, facing First Avenue SE.
The installation is one of 50 placed around the U.S. — one in each state — from the You Are Beautiful project, created in 2002 by Chicago artist Matthew Hoffman as stickers with the same message. Since then, millions have been shared around the globe.
Cedar Rapids not-for-profit Murals and More secured the donated installation. Keeping with the design of the popular stickers, it is in simple bold black text against a silver rectangle with round edges, with a black outline.
Nick Ludwig, co-chair of the Murals and More board, said the sign has a brutal appearance, in contrast to its “you are beautiful” message.
It “does a lot to try to brighten somebody's day and help somebody find peace, and the sort of solace that comes with letting them know that who they are is enough," Ludwig said. “They are good enough, just the way they are. They are beautiful.”
Especially in Cedar Rapids, where the community continues to recover from 2008 flooding, and now grapples with COVID-19 pandemic and derecho recovery, Ludwig said there is a lot of transformation at the same time.
Given that, Ludwig said it seems this piece will particularly resonate here.
"I think the message is important, that it's not about aesthetic beauty,” Ludwig said. “The furthest thing from that — it's just the idea that a person, a human at its core, they should know there is an essence of beauty to who they are, just the way they are. And that includes all the scars and tattered remnants of whatever that means for them personally.”
Laura Kaiden, another Murals and More board member, was familiar with the “you are beautiful” stickers from when she lived in Chicago before moving to Cedar Rapids about nine years ago. She would see them while waiting for a bus, at a restaurant, in bathroom stalls — random places around the city.
Kaiden reached out to the artist to see if Cedar Rapids might be able to get an art piece, and the timing worked out with the nationwide “You Are Beautiful, Where You Are” installations.
“It's a reminder that all of the actions that you put out in the world, and even the small gestures that you think might not make a difference, that they can really blossom and turn into something really big and beautiful,” Kaiden said.
“ … The fact that there was this one guy that lived in Chicago and had this idea to make these little stickers to put a message in the world, and then that's blossomed into this large-scale art on the side of buildings and one in every single state in the country, or thousands of stickers that all of these people are putting out into the world … I love the idea that these small actions have a big impact,” Kaiden added.
University of Northern Iowa student Diamond Roundtree, a Washington High School graduate, prepared a poem to read at a recent unveiling of the installation.
Roundtree said she often tries to say, “Hello, beautiful,” to people, so the art installation’s message resonated with her, too, as she seeks to bring out everyone’s inner beauty in their hearts and minds. Too often, people associate “beauty” with what is on the outside, she said.
“I always try to find the beauty in a person, and I always try to find not only just in a person, but in life,” Roundtree said. “I look at nature and I'm like, 'Wow, that's beautiful,' and the things in life are beautiful, so I always try to appreciate those moments.”
“You are beautiful” is for everyone, regardless of ethnicity, race, religion, gender or any aspect of one’s identity, Roundtree said.
When people pass by the installation, Roundtree said, “I hope they look at themselves in the reflection and say I am beautiful, and I hope that they can turn around and look at humanity and say humanity's beautiful, and look at little things in life and say that's beautiful … When people walk past it, I hope that they are inspired to change the world. I hope they are inspired to change their community, to make sure that everyone understands that they have a place in this earth.”
Comments: (319) 398-8494; firstname.lastname@example.org