"You Are Beautiful" Arch Celebrates NU Body Acceptance Week 2015

This week, a gray arch on Library Plaza proclaiming “You Are Beautiful” in bold, black letters will remind the Northwestern community of one of the essential messages of Northwestern’s Body Acceptance Week (BAW) 2015.

The art installation, created by Chicago artist Matthew Hoffman, kicks off the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)-sponsored week of workshops focusing on positive body image, nurturing yourself with healthful food and exercise, and raising awareness on media messages about body standards.

“I think students will learn things you wouldn’t typically expect,” CAPS Staff Psychologist and BAW coordinator Eileen Biagi said. “In our culture, if you aren’t feeling good about your appearance, the response is: ‘Oh, you should diet, change your weight and shape, and then you’ll feel good about yourself.’ We want a more long-lasting solution, something they’ll maintain.”

By visiting the Body Affirmation Station in Allison Dining Hall (2/17, 11:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m.) students can learn how to incorporate body positive message into their daily lives in the face of media beauty ideals. Eat to Nourish in the 101B Wildcat Room (2/17, 4:00-5:00 p.m.) will feature Northwestern’s Dietitian and Chef and nutrition experts with a healthful cooking demo and ways to fuel yourself day to day.

Zumba and Mindful Yoga in Searle Hall 3-220 (2/18, 6:00-7:15 p.m.) encourage students to try fun, energizing, and even relaxing exercise programs that they won’t dread attending. “We’re trying to teach students how to nurture your body, how to make exercise and good nutrition something in your life you can enjoy and look forward to,” Biagi said, “and not trying to make your body look a certain way.”

The internationally-recognized You Are Beautiful project, founded in 2002 by Hoffman and known for its signature stickers simply stating “you are beautiful”, made its way to Northwestern’s campus this year to promote its inclusive, body-positive message during Body Acceptance Week 2015 after Biagi reached out to Hoffman.

“There’s something special about using art. Art can speak to people in ways nothing else can,” Biagi said. “I’m a big fan of discussion groups and speakers, but in a way art can inspire and move people in new ways, so I’m excited about that.”

According to Hoffman, Northwestern is the first university since 2005 to receive official artwork from the project, and was selected because “YAB’s message is really right in line with Body Acceptance Week.” The Chicago artist also talked about the universality of “You Are Beautiful” and why it’s an important message for people of all age groups to hear. “When I hit on that phrase I felt like it was the most true statement I could think of, the most undeniable,” Hoffman said. “In some way or another everyone is beautiful.”

Sticky notes will also be available in the women’s dormitory restrooms, women’s restrooms at CAPS, SPAC and other buildings, and gender neutral restrooms as part of the annual Operation Beautiful. Students are encouraged to write body-positive messages on the sticky notes and post them on the mirrors; the program is also being piloted in men’s restrooms on campus.

The “You Are Beautiful” arch will only stand during Body Acceptance Week, but Hoffman hopes its message will stick with anyone who sees the art piece, whatever it means to them.

“[You Are Beautiful] is just to make people feel a little better at a personal level in their daily lives—whatever you need, whatever that means to people,” Hoffman said. “I hope that the arch will be bold enough to make you stop and experience the moment.”

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Body Acceptance Week 2015 workshops

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You Are Beautiful

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