“Before I Die is merely one of the most creative community projects ever.”
“Through a series of large-scale projects that combine installation art with social activism, Chang has encouraged people to engage with public spaces to let their voices be heard.”
“They’re the stuff of everyday life from people of all walks of life… Young or old, rich or poor, the Before I Die wall does make you think as you walk by.”
“Death can inspire life. Especially in New Orleans, on the corner of Marigny and Burgundy, where the Before I Die project has used the specter of urban decay and death to create art and inspire. Using a boarded up house as a canvas, artist Candy Chang transformed a haunting reminder of blight and divestment into a powerful affirmation of human life and imagination.”
Before I Die is an interactive public art project that invites people to share their hopes and dreams in public space. After artist and urban planner Candy Chang lost someone she loved very much, she painted the wall of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with a grid of the sentence “Before I die I want to ______.” Passersby can use chalk to write directly on the wall.
The project has since spread worldwide and walls have been created by communities in Mexico, the Netherlands, Australia, Kazakhstan, and beyond. The project is about remembering what is important to you, creating a public space for contemplation, and reimagining how our public spaces can better reflect what matters to us as a community and as individuals.
Candy Chang. She’s an artist with a background in design and urban planning. She created the wall in her neighborhood in New Orleans after she lost someone she loved very much. Read her full bio here.
Additional installation assistance by Kristina Kassem, Alan Williams, Cory Klemmer, Anamaria Vizcaino, James Reeves, Alex Vialou, Sean Knowlton, Carolina Caballero, Earl Carlson, and Gary Hustwit.
Made with primer, chalkboard paint, stencils, spray paint, chalk. Self-initiated with permission from the property owner, residents of the block, the neighborhood association’s blight committee, the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the Arts Council, and the City Planning Commission. With generous support from the Black Rock Arts Foundation.
The original installation was created February 2011 and lasted until October 2011. The property was purchased and the house has become a home again. Happy ending! The project continues to grow, with new walls being made around the world every month.
The first installation was created on an abandoned house in Candy’s neighborhood in New Orleans, at the corner of Marigny St and Burgundy St (900 Marigny Street).
After receiving many requests from people around the world, Candy and her colleagues created this project website and a Before I Die Toolkit to help people make a wall with their community and share their wall online.
The Before I Die book, published by St. Martin’s Press, is a celebration of these walls and the stories behind them. Filled with our hopes, fears, humor, and heartbreak, and printed in a beautiful, full-color, hardbound edition, it’s a reminder of our shared connections and a chance to contemplate life’s ultimate question. Publishers Weekly called it, “a powerful and valuable reminder that life is for the living, and that it’s never too late, or too early, to join in the party.”Buy the book at these stores and beyond: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, Indie Bound, Overstock, and Powell’s.