Interview with Shannon Weber
Shannon Weber is a San Francisco-based ephemeral artist on a mission to change the world one love note at a time. She creates public displays of affection: painted love notes covertly hung on fences and live love note writing experiences at events or in communities (art opening, holiday parties, school events) where a public art piece is created from participants’ customized love notes. Shannon is captivated by catching people’s eye or heart in transition and feeling for brief seconds the innate connection, the web of commonality between us. At LoveYou2.org she posts about her adventures documenting signs of love, installing public art love notes, and reflecting on life’s loves. Her street art installations were featured on Upworthy. Shannon is an ordained minister, two-time commissioned altarista for Dia de los Muertos/The Marigold Project, two-time Maker Faire selected participant, Awesome Foundation grantee, created an art installation at Burning Man Center Camp Cafe 2014 & 2015, and presented at 2014 TEDx Encinitas.
Shannon, what’s the idea behind LoveYou2.org? What initially inspired you to launch the project?
I had a habit of writing a love note and living a little trinket for each one of my kids whenever I had to travel or to miss an important event. This way they could have a token of our love something that cannot be seen but can only be felt. One day they said to me sometimes we need a piece of you even when you are here. And that's when I created what is now the iconic Love Note Flyer which says 'I love you' on the top and has 'I love you too' on each of the pole tabs. We hung this flyer on our refrigerator and then one summer we began going about town hanging if up on public bulletin boards for others to find. Some friends would join us in these adventures and then they too began asking for a copy of the flyer. And one day a friend said to me you should start a website. And so that's what I did in 2010 with just the original 'I love you too' flyer. I started a blog posted the flyer and invited anyone anywhere to download it, print it, hang it and share their get love, give love story. And this is my mission for changing the world, one love note at the time was born.
How does being based in San Francisco affect your work with LoveYou2.org?
I've benefited being in San Francisco which is super supportive of creatives and I think it's been fairly friendly to my renegade love note installations that are always done without permission. So I'm grateful for that. I've also been able to partner with some incredible community-based organizations that align with my values so 826 Valencia being one nonprofit whose mission is to give kids a voice by teaching them to write. And so this meant so much to me that I can do the love note installations in their window. My kids took classes there and I taught workshops there and to be able to really engage with the public with and on behalf of 826 Valencia is so profound. Working with the Marigold project Day of the Dead which is a classic part of the San Francisco Mission District's celebration of Dios Los Muertos to create these public altars inviting people to write love notes to those who've gone on. And making contributions through HIVE Clinic where I direct a clinic at San Francisco General Hospital for Women Living with HIV who are pregnant. And then with our funders, so, for example, Macy's is one of our funders and I was able to create an in-store installation when they launched a new product called Love Bravely. So this has been an incredible conduct connected experience for me but I think important to know that Loveyou2 is worldwide. There's love notes in over 20 countries and hundreds of cities across the U.S. and hundreds of people from all over the world have downloaded a flyer or printed the love note templates or hosted live love writing experiences in their own community.
What has been the feedback from the audience and partners of LoveYou2.org? What have been the biggest milestones of the project since it was founded in 2010?
While feedback on the project has been overwhelming, personal and intimate. Hundreds of people from all over the world have shared with me stories of loss and longing and I have seen the large public insulations of love notes create transformative experiences for communities. There's been huge milestones like being featured in Ode magazine and giving a TED talk and I just received the UCSF Chancers Award for Public Service. But I think the thing the milestones are the most meaningful to me have been the opportunities I've had to collaborate with people around the world on creating customized love note experiences. So midwives in Toronto Canada when they moved into a new birth center wanted to engage with their new community as well as create welcoming messages for all these new babies who would be born in this space and we worked together to create a card that became a fixture in that neighbourhood and guard their love notes from people of all walks of life. Working with Chris and Rob on their wedding plans and integrating love notes into the ceremony to acknowledge the love of their family and their community but also to acknowledge the freedom of love that is possible with gay marriage and just recently working with a community in Bolton which is in the northwest of England to create a love note installation that celebrates resilience and connection. So the biggest milestones for me are the moments of connection with like-minded people around the world who also believe that it's possible that we can change the world through these interactions.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with LoveYou2.org?
By far the most rewarding aspect of loveyou2.org is unfettered creativity and a commitment to follow my heart. Since this began as a passion project the board of directors lives right here and all I have to do to know what's the right decision or what's the next move is to be still and to listen to what my heart wants. And since this project began as a collaboration with my kids there now all three teenagers and they continue to make contributions of many kinds to this project and that is a special reward all of its own.
What's next for your work with LoveYou2.org? Where do you see the project in five years?
What's next? More love notes. I'm working with my son who's 18 on some ideas about some larger scale painted wood love note installation. So that's going to be fun to expand the tools I work with and how I think about the installation and lighting. I would love to have an installation in a museum, I have tens of thousands of love notes that have been written now and I've saved them and I just imagine creating a room in which you're completely envelopes in these love notes and it provides an experience to bridge that disconnect that we all often feel even in this world of hyper-connectedness. So like a bomb for the loneliness. I also want to go on a road trip around the U.S. and do love note installations and community-based organizations. And finally I have this idea of wanting to be able to provide love no insulation kits for communities directly after crises. So is it possible to create these tool kit and instructions so that people can use the love notes as an insulation to bond and heal following tragedies and unexpected crises. What's next for you and how can I support you in creating ripples of love in the world around you. Let me know, I'd love to collaborate.