yab complete 600wIn Fall 2019, the Elmwood Park Public Library collaborated with faculty and students at Elmwood Park Community Consolidated SD401 and St. Celestine School on an interactive art project with a goal of installing an original piece of public art that reflects our shared community values. The Library conducted conversations with over 1,200 students and invited them to share thoughts and feelings about questions ranging from "what inspires and motivates you," "what words make you feel special," "what does it mean to be a friend," "what does community mean to you," and "what does kindness look like." Students then worked to create their own inspirational messages, which are documented in these photos, and which directly influenced the creation of our art installation by You Are Beautiful artist Matthew Hoffman - be kind. be strong. be yourself. you belong.

While the pandemic delayed our project, we rallied students for an outdoor painting party and the piece was installed on the northeast corner of the library on June 2, 2021. A public celebration was held on June 4, 2021 and then staff set to work on a way to share our project far and wide. We received a RAILS My Library Is... grant to create a video that documented the process. Please watch and enjoy the video below which includes student artwork, quotes, and community photos. 

We hope that the public art piece will serve as a permanent reminder of the importance that each of us has as unique individuals, and the impact that kindness, inclusivity, and artistic inspiration can have on our community, as well as being a continuous reflection of the welcoming spirit of the Village of Elmwood Park. We also hope our work will inspire others and are happy to talk to any schools, libraries, or community organizations interested in creating a similar project. 

We are grateful for the amazing collaboration we had with Matthew and Shae Synnestvedt of You Are Beautiful (TM). We also wish to thank the Elmwood Park Public Library Board, the Elmwood Park Neighborhood Civic Organization (EPNCO), the Youth Commission, and the Village of Elmwood Park for their support with this project. Thank you to the Reaching Across Illinois Library System for funding that allows for the completion of the project and development of our video through the RAILS "My Library Is...." Grant. Finally, thank you to the wonderful faculty and students at Elmwood Elementary, John Mills Elementary, Elm Middle School, and St. Celestine School. Our sincere appreciation to Mr. Lerner, Mr. Kuzniewski, Ms. Groeneveld, Ms. Catalano, Mr. Siegel, Ms. Korteling, Ms. Ward, Ms. Vessini, Ms. Klich, and to the students, for sharing your time, thoughts and feelings with us.

Other examples of public art created by the You Are Beautiful cooperative can be found at: you-are-beautiful.com/pages/public-art