Photo Credit: We All Live Here Project
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Tired of the negativity that grips the nightly news, Rich Alapack racked his brain for a simple, yet memorable message that would convey the love and unity he longed to see more of. And as it so often does, inspiration struck when he least expected it.
While walking near his Bucktown residence, Alapack paused at the thought of four words – we all live here. Little did he know, those four words would fuel a commitment toward reminding people to get along and help one another succeed. Instead of condemning Chicago’s diversity, the short phrase celebrates each and every member of a community – no matter their background or beliefs.
“Alone, the words ‘we all live here’ may not mean much,” said Alapack. “But together, they touch upon gender, income and racial inequality as well as aspects of environmentalism.”
Soon after coming up with the phrase back in 2015, Alapack took to the streets of Chicago to see how it would resonate with others. Music festivals, such as Pitchfork and Lollapalooza, served as the perfect opportunity for Alapack to take hundreds of photos of people holding signs with the phrase, “we all live here.”
Having uploaded his work to a Tumblr blog, Alapack waited and wondered what might become of his newfound mantra. Any doubts about whether others shared his same appetite for positivity quickly dissipated after Alapack’s blog grew to more than 25,000 followers that summer.
“The blog was featured on Tumblr’s front page and then all of the sudden I started waking up to messages of encouragement from people all around the world,” said Alapack. “That was the moment I realized what a great impact four simple words could make.”
Eager to spread the phrase across the city, Alapack started the “We All Live Here” project, which partners with schools to create public-facing art installations. By involving students from concept to completion, the project’s ACT (art, community and technology) program helps rally the support of schools as well as their surrounding communities.
To help spark ideas, Alapack hosts an assembly to discuss basic design principles prior to kicking off the art project. From there, students are invited to leave their mark on the project by drawing pictures with the phrase, “We All Live Here” and creating logos for the school that incorporate a similar theme.
“I really want these pieces of art to deliver a message of inclusion that comes directly from the schools themselves,” said Alapack. “What better way to do that than by getting the students involved.”
Once they’re all submitted, Alapack uses the student drawings to design a logo that’s placed on t-shirts, coffee mugs and more. Proceeds from such items are then used to help fund the school’s installation. From a chalk mural at the Ogden International School of Chicago to Burr Elementary’s multilingual display of the phrase, “We All Live Here,” Alapack has helped create art pieces at 54 Chicago schools.
And he’s not done yet.
With the support of local businesses as well as TechWeek Gives campaign sponsors like Motorola, Alapack aims to display his message in each of Chicago’s 77 neighborhoods. In the same way such sponsors help make up a tech community committed toward inclusion and equality, the, “We All Live Here,” initiative aims to end segregation throughout the city.
“Chicago doesn’t belong to you or me – it’s home to everybody in this city,” said Alapack. “These art projects we’re putting together are just a small reminder that everyone – regardless of their sex, race or religion – deserves the right to live here.”
Interested in supporting, “We All Live Here”? Visit the project’s website for more information.
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