The Art of Making Friends

Artist strove to make a new friend every day for a year

Creating and maintaining friendships can be hard work sometimes, but one Lincoln Park woman turned the process into a work of art.

Maria Scileppi moved back to Chicago after living in New York City for six years. But she found herself with a dilemma common among recent transplants.

"I didn't really have any friends here," she told the Sun-Times.

The problem is almost ironic in an age where millions of people sign on to dozens of social networking websites every day. Popular sites like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter provide constant live updates from "friends."

However, as a person networks and connects with more and more "friends," the individual short blurbs and pictures get lost in an online swarm of updates and links. Networking web sites provide convenience, but many people argue that good friendships require real time and effort.

"Friendship is being redefined because of the social media revolution," she said. "People have now been living with Facebook, but the honeymoon's over. I think we're realizing the importance of face-to-face contact."

Scileppi set out on a mission. Every day for a year, she started conversations with strangers. If she made a connection, she took a photo of the new friend and wrote a short story about the person.

Perhaps as a testament to Midwestern friendliness, the process wasn't difficult at all. Less than 10 people declined participation in the project.

Last weekend, Scileppi presented  "Peoplescape," an exhibit of her 365 pictures and stories to the public at a West Loop gallery.

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue, owes most of his friendships to online networking.

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