(you) are beautiful.

photo by Kim Riegel

A clandestine conversation

They felt more comfortable talking by phone, even though I suggested a meeting…

By Joe O’Donnell

Since they painted the first “You Are Beautiful” sign on the Highland Avenue bridge over 280 back in the fall, these warm-hearted graffiti artists have been much in the news. The appearance of the first message followed a handful more in locations in different parts of the city—followed by the defacement of a couple of the messages—created a running conversation in the city and in cyberspace. They speak through graffiti art, a Facebook page complete with email address and cellphone number, but they feel they are in some legal jeopardy—something they say comes with the job.
This is how the young man and woman that I talked with one afternoon described their efforts on their Facebook page:
“Let this message be what it is to you.
“Enjoy it. Embrace it. Pass it on.
“Adopted from the international mother project (you-are-beautiful.com), we hope to spread positive messages that will encourage and uplift individuals so that they may realize how truly beautiful they and Birmingham, Alabama really is. We also hope to convey the wonderful potential that every individual has in creating a positive community in the simplest and most powerful way, human interaction.”
Among the 870 friends/fans on the Facebook page, “You Are Beautiful Birmingham,” Rebecca Claire Allen wrote the following: “Thank you! I live in Virginia at boarding school and when I look at this it reminds me so much of the home I love and care about! You guys really are the inspiration that Birmingham needs and that’s coming from a 17-year-old! So keep it up and everyone is looking forward to the next reminder of beauty!”
The woman on the other end of the cellphone said: “The premise is simple: You are suddenly uplifted and taken away from everyday life. Someone told me they were on their way to St. Vincent’s to visit a sick grandmother and seeing the sign was a distraction. That makes it worthwhile. I hope these messages set their day straight and help them have a better outlook on life. Hopefully it is contagious.
“When we were painting the bridge, I was not thinking of what would come of it—but seeing people’s reactions has made it worthwhile. We intended it to be once and done, and then we ran with it.”
The Highland Avenue bridge, Railroad Park, an exposed wall on 2nd Avenue South and a retaining wall along the street that winds up to Vulcan, all became canvases for the “You Are Beautiful” message.
“We feel if we had the proper time and space we could do something great for the city, like a city wide art project which Birmingham doesn’t really have. We’d love to see that happen with “You Are Beautiful” pieces throughout the city. It was kind of surprising to see on al.com people arguing back and forth about whether this was a scummy  post-industrial town. I was taken aback by the negative comments, but I think there is an equal amount of positive.”
The artists have gone from underground to above-ground with a new project. They are working on a mural at Monarch Cleaners on Broadway in Homewood. The mural was planned for a weekend late in January.

One Response to “(you) are beautiful.”

  1. liesa Cole says:

    This makes me happy.

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