It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. When Candy lost someone she loved very much, she thought about death a lot. This helped clarify her life but she struggled to maintain perspective. She wanted to know what was important to the people around her. So with help from old and new friends, she turned the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans into a giant chalkboard and stenciled it with the sentence “Before I die I want to _______.” so anyone walking by can pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.
It was all an experiment. By the next day the wall was entirely filled out and it kept growing. Before I die I want to… sing for millions, see my daughter graduate, straddle the International Date Line, see the leaves change many times, be someone’s cavalry, live off the grid, build a school, hold her one more time, abandon all insecurities, be completely myself… People’s hopes and dreams made her laugh out loud, tear up, and feel consolation during her own tough times. The wall transformed a neglected space into a constructive one where we can understand our neighbors in new and enlightening ways, restore perspective, and remember we are not alone. The Atlantic called it “one of the most creative community projects ever, and the project was featured on NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams.
After receiving hundreds of messages from people around the world who wanted to make a wall, she and her Civic Center colleagues created the project website beforeidie.cc and a Before I Die Toolkit to help people make a wall with their community and share their wall online. You can also download all files for free to remix or create your own stencils. Thanks to passionate people, this project has expanded to countries around the world, including Kazakhstan, South Africa, the Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, Portugal, Italy, Argentina and beyond. Taken together, the Before I Die project offers a public space for contemplation and a snapshot of the values our neighbors hold dear. Together we can make public spaces that better reflect what matters to us as a community and as individuals. Developed with support from the Black Rock Arts Foundation.
This wall was born in February and died in September, 2011.
Made with love by Candy Chang and Civic Center