You Are Beautiful & Bright Side

Art Installation with 100 Wonderful Immigrants & First Generation Americans I September 22, 2017

















This past weekend marked an auspicious event for those of us here at The Bright Side. After months of hard work, we were proud to finally unveil our collaborative project with renowned Chicago-based artist Matthew Hoffman, pioneer of the You Are Beautiful movement.


In his latest show, entitled “Find Your Way,” Hoffman examines the voyage into the creative world. For many this journey is slow-growing and rife with setbacks and pitfalls, but Find Your Way is all about encouraging artists to push on in forging their own path.

Áron and his sister
Directed by Viktor Horvath Creative contributor: Aron Filkey
Anna Olsztynska​ I Poland
Photo Credit: Quinn Hargitai

“I was born and raised in Poland, but I had a chance to visit Iceland, the Land of Ice and Fire. I fell in love with its dramatic landscape and magical atmosphere. My board is a representation of that country. I used black sand to represent the changes and challenges of my journey, which shaped my persona along the way. The green moss captures unique and happy moments, and the ice mountain symbolizes the floating intuition and conscious mind that has helped my stick to my dreams.”

Jose Fragoso​ I Spain
Photo Credit: Quinn Hargitai

“I’m a children’s book author and illustrator, which is why I chose to use watercolor. I especially love faces. Whenever I’m painting they’re the most fun for me, I sometimes get bored doing the backgrounds. So for this project I decided to do all faces to try and show that, though they’re all different, they’re all beautiful.”

Flavio Pina​ I Brazil
Photo Credit: Quinn Hargitai

“I had this idea of rubber bands in my head because travel is something that stretches you out. With each journey you get wider, bigger, more open. Diversity widens us a lot, and I think moving here has definitely stretched me in a good way.”

Gábor Hizo​ I Hungary
Photo Credit: Quinn Hargitai

“My concept came from my investigation into my own culture. Having lived in the states almost my whole life, it was a fascinating look into what kind of artifacts people produce and have produced for thousands of years in Hungary. Every culture has its own visual motifs and traditions, and Hungary is well known for its immaculate embroidery. It’s become a physical vernacular that they use over and over to the point where it feels a bit mystic. Why this peacock? Why this floral arrangement? It’s one of those things that builds a culture.”

All the artists’ panels are now available for purchase, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to a pro-immigration charity. Anyone interested in buying a board simply need contact Shae for more information.


With such a well-received debut, there remained only one person left to interview by the end of the project’s opening night: our own Melis Sönmez, founder of The Bright Side and the initial driving force behind this collaboration with Matthew Hoffman. Without her, none of this would have been possible.

Photo Credit: Ben Derico

“It was definitely a gamble for me. I didn’t know many of these artists beforehand, but I put my trust in them. I also wanted to make them all happy, so I guess they had to put their trust in me, too. I remember I was initially worried that people would maybe focus on the negative sides of their journey, but I look around and I see color and life, different ways of sharing their journey. If you let people show their creativity, they don’t let you down. These people found their way.” 

Photo Credit: Ben Derico

Since The Bright Side began earlier this year, we’ve interviewed some of the most remarkable people, each one with an incredible story of perseverance that’s unique as it is inspiring. Every single one of our interviewees has had to find their way at some point, be it in the art world or in a new and unfamiliar country. That’s why we decided to send out 100 wooden panels, each with Hoffman’s trademark “You Are Beautiful” design inscribed in various languages, to immigrants and first generation artists living within the United States.


Our instructions: design the board in any way you feel captures your own culture and journey to America.

“Working with Bright Side has been phenomenal because it’s 100% the roots of the project. It’s being collaborative and working with as many different people as possible. It’s cool because a lot of these pieces are so different than expected. It’s absolutely amazing to see what some people came up with, and seeing them as a big group is really powerful.”- Matthew Hoffman


We were humbled by the utter creativity and innovation behind the boards we got back; these artists took the concept in ways we never imagined and used every conceivable medium, from neon lights to imitation moss. Painted, carved, stamped, or woven into each panel is a story wrought from the depths of numerous cultures, unyielding curiosity, and intrepid ventures into the unknown. Take a look at what some of the artists had to say about their own pieces.

Zipeng Zhu I China
Photo Credit: Quinn Hargitai

“I’m from China, born and raised 18 years. This one is in simplified Chinese, my mother tongue. I think my beautiful country is not beautifully represented throughout the world. I moved to the United States 9 years ago, and I’m still here. I’ve gotten a lot of support from all types of people here. I still feel very hopeful and optimistic. I think with love one day we’ll all come together and it will be something awesome.”

The website is not meant for legal advice or services — we simply want to inspire a community where legal immigrants can connect.

Copyright © 2018 Bright Side.


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