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'Operation Happy!' project sets out to combat negativity

A quietly inspirational public art project aimed at improving the daily lives of  Western New Yorkers is running through at least Monday on The Buffalo News' digital sign at Washington and Scott streets, with more billboard locations being planned.

The project, called #operationhappy, is the brainchild of Katie Miller, who was inspired by Matthew Hoffman's popular series of "You Are Beautiful" billboards that appeared as part of an Albright-Knox Art Gallery-sponsored project in 2014 and 2015.

Miller is building buzz for the project through its Facebook page, which has so far collected more than 600 likes. She also has an ongoing funding campaign which has raised $905 of a $3,500 goal.


The billboard portion of Miller's project is being sponsored by Grey Line Signs. But the project also involves other components, such as a series of business cards bearing the messages "You Are Loved" and "You Matter" that Miller mails to those who like the project's Facebook page and encourages them to distribute however they see fit.

Miller launched the project after taking in Hoffman's billboards and the positive response they elicited from Western New Yorkers.

"I found it amazing how I heard people respond," she wrote on her GoFundMe page. "They looked forward to going by them ... they felt better when they read them ... they were in a rotten mood and it changed their state of mind. Inspired by this I made a series of handwritten foam board signs with kind, comforting words on them and placed them down the length of the grass island of Fuhrmann Blvd."

The signs now running on the side of The News building are slated to continue through at least May 23, though Miller said that could be extended. She added that Grey Line Signs is currently hunting for another location to run the billboards.

"There's just so much negativity out there," said Miller when asked about the scope of the project. "I'd just like to see that change, at least for a little bit."


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