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Erie County: You Are Beautiful

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Buffalo, NY – Over the Labor Day holiday weekend, billboards began to appear across Erie County bearing a simple message to residents: “You Are Beautiful.” The work is part of the Public Art Initiative, a collaboration between the Albright-Knox, Erie County, and the City of Buffalo that seeks to enrich the lives of area residents by placing significant works of art in public locations throughout the region. Thanks to a partnership with Lamar Advertising, the billboards will be highly visible throughout the County until mid-December.

The art is the work of Chicago-based artist and designer Matthew Hoffman. The Erie County presentation of the work is the most immersive presentation that the artist has created to date. Hoffman began the project as a graffiti-style self-affirmation scrawled on the rusting trusses of an underpass in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago. Following significant praise for this tiny gesture, Hoffman began to develop stickers bearing the phrase that have now been circulated across the globe, as well as massive installations in all manner of media. (Stickers will be distributed in Erie County, too, connecting our community to this global phenomenon.) Whatever they are made of, Hoffman’s signs have gained a foothold in the landscape wherever he has produced them.

You Are Beautiful presents the philosophical notion of essential beauty in our personal lives and collective landscapes. Hoffman has said, “When the phrase ‘You Are Beautiful’ is integrated into a city or community, it creates an immediate positive dialogue.” Hoffman’s quest was to make a statement that was always true. “I found that I couldn’t make this statement true with any other word than ‘beautiful,’” he said. Though the artist pursues other projects that align with his enthusiasm for creating moments that support positive placemaking while advocating for public compassion, You Are Beautiful has become a lifelong commitment.

Albright-Knox Curator of Public Art Aaron Ott noted, “This is such an important project for Erie County now, in this very moment. My family and I are new here, we feel the kinetic energy, the buzz of creativity, and a thriving arts community. I think this project further activates and broadcasts that. We are beautiful, individually and collectively as a community. My sense is that we are emerging from a chrysalis of sorts. That’s beautiful.”

Lamar Advertising is generously presenting the project at forty-four sites throughout the County over the next few months. Residents and visitors will see You Are Beautiful more than 16.5 million times before mid-December. You Are Beautifulstickers will be available free at many community events and sites this fall. To request stickers for a site or event, please email

Hoffman will visit Buffalo in November.

The next project in the Public Art Initiative will take place in October, when as many as 200 County residents will participate in the creation of an arena painting with nationally known, Buffalo-born artist Charles Clough. The massive painting will be made on October 25 at the William E. Swan Auditorium at Hilbert College in Hamburg. The completed work will be installed in the newly renovated Hamburg Public Library in mid-December. Members of the public who would like to enter to participate are asked to visit the Albright-Knox’s website. The deadline to enter is September 26 at 5 pm.


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