Large cursive letters spelling out the words “be you” could become an artistic focal point of the new riverfront plaza in downtown St. Charles.
At 7 feet wide and 6 feet tall, the 3-D sculpture will be designed for public engagement, said Jenna Sawicki, executive director of the St. Charles Business Alliance. The artwork is meant to be posed in front of, photographed and posted to social media, she said, all while spreading an uplifting message.
“We feel we are a positive community,” Sawicki said, “so we wanted to do something that reflects that.”
That style of inspirational artwork is a specialty of Chicago artist Matthew Hoffman, who launched the popular “You Are Beautiful” campaign. His universal messages have been circulated globally, his large-scale sculptures have been installed nationwide, and he has amassed tens of thousands of followers on social media.
As the promotional arm for St. Charles, the business alliance invited Hoffman to the city nearly two years ago in hopes of collaborating on a new piece of public art, Sawicki said. Inspired by the Fox River and downtown, he came up with a concept that’s unique to St. Charles but still plays off his signature “You Are Beautiful” message.
The “be you” sculpture is expected to be made out of recycled plastic and placed on the north end of the city’s “east plaza,” which is under construction as part of its First Street redevelopment project. Visitors facing the artwork will be able to see the iconic municipal building in the background, Sawicki said, further enhancing its sense of place and encouraging economic activity.
“It needed to be something that people would want to come and see and be excited about,” she said. “We really do believe it’ll attract people not only in the community but visitors from the outside to come and see St. Charles.”
The sculpture will be donated by the St. Charles Business Alliance, as has been done with public art in the past. Once installed, it is expected to weigh more than 1,500 pounds, Sawicki said, though it can be dismantled and moved should the city ever decide to relocate it.
The concept has received support from the St. Charles Arts Council and city aldermen, giving Hoffman the go-ahead to begin constructing the artwork, Sawicki said. The sculpture is expected to be completed in coordination with the plaza by this spring, at which point the business alliance will formally gift it to the city.
The “east plaza,” which connects to a two-level riverwalk, serves as an extension of an existing community space on the west side of First Street. A mix of public and private improvements have transformed the corridor into a pedestrian-friendly, business-centric hub during the past decade.
“Everyone is excited about this new plaza and what the possibilities are going to be with it, and how it’s going to enhance our current programming and events,” Sawicki said. “We can’t wait to see what else we can do with the space.”