Akin Bilgic, a 28-year-old student at the Academy of Arts University, is a romantic.
One of the 96 mirrors he and his friends put up around the city Sunday night as part of a public arts project reads: “You look good today, you should ask someone out for coffee.”
“If a relationship came out of that, that would make it all worth it, in my opinion,” Bilgic said. The mirror is part of the SF Mirrors Project, an arts project he thought up in 2010.
The full-time student and freelance computer graphics artist raised more than $3,000 last spring through a Kickstarter campaign, and asked donors to send one-sentence messages to be written on the mirrors. Donors’ names would follow their message, if they wanted it.
Bilgic received hundreds of submissions. He then contacted TAP Plastics in SoMa and ordered 100 3-by-1.5-foot acrylic mirrors.
“The last thing I wanted was glass mirrors that could shatter and hurt people,” he said.
At the top of each mirror he wrote the messages in permanent marker.
Once the 96 mirrors were ready, Bilgic convinced 20 of his friends to help him find spots for them.
On Jan. 30, around midnight, the friends split into teams. Each group was assigned to a neighborhood. They stopped when they spotted a construction wall or any other open places. By 3 a.m., they were done.
No one’s mapped the mirrors, but at least 20 are in the Mission, Bilgic said.
“The instructions were no homes, no businesses. The last thing I wanted was to cause grief to people.”
The morning after the mirrors went up, Bilgic started noticing tweets with photos of the mirrors, and he also received emails. On Monday, Broke-Ass Stuart, of Brokeassstuart.com, tweeted a photo of himself looking into a mirror downtown.
Another person tweeted: “The ‘Be Yourself’ mirror in the Stockton Tunnel just surprised & delighted this San Franciscan.”
Bilgic hoped the mirrors would give people something to smile about. He never thought one would help calm students during time-outs.
A few days ago, he received an email from a teacher who took one of the mirrors. He’s not sure how she got one, but she told him she brought it to her classroom. It reads: “You have TODAY. What will you do with it?”
She put it up on a wall in the corner of the classroom where students who have received a time-out have to sit quietly. Most students are angry to have to sit there. Since she put the mirror there, they seem to be calmer, she told Bilgic.
Since last Sunday, whenever he gets a chance, Bilgic goes out on walks, camera in hand, and looks for mirrors. Then he waits for someone to walk by and notice.
Just a few days ago, he watched a man stop in front of a mirror at Market and 7th streets that reads, “If this was your last year alive, what would you be doing different?”
Intrigued, the man stared at the mirror for several minutes.
“He must have stood there for three minutes. I can only imagine what he was thinking,” Bilgic said. “He looked thoughtful, he seemed to be considering it carefully.”
“It felt pretty good to see.”
People email photos to Bilgic and he posts them on the project’s website. Eventually he’d like to put together a PDF of the project and email it to all the people who have supported it. He also filmed the project along the way, for a short documentary.
So far only one person has asked him to take a mirror down. The message on it read, “Are you taking care of what really matters?” When Bilgic went to get it back, the man wasn’t angry.
“He was very understanding and supportive of the project, actually,” Bilgic said.
“It’s interesting to have one handed back to you. I’m keeping that one as a souvenir.”
He isn’t sure what his next project will be yet, but if there’s one thing he’s learned, he said, it’s that sometimes you have to give your ideas a try.
“I almost dismissed this project entirely; I thought, ‘Oh no that’s stupid.’ But sometimes an idea is all it takes.”