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Photos by Civic Center.

It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. With help from friends and neighbors, Candy turned the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans into a giant chalkboard where residents can write on the wall and remember what is important to them. Before I Die is an interactive public art project that invites people to share their hopes and dreams in public space. Painted with chalkboard paint and stenciled with the sentence “Before I die I want to _______”, the wall becomes an enlightening way to get to know your neighbors and discover what matters most to the people around you. It creates a public space for contemplation and reminds us why we want to be alive in the world today. It’s a question that changed Candy after she lost someone she loved very much, and she believes the design of our public spaces can better reflect what matters to us as a community and as individuals. This was the basis for her graduate thesis.

The responses have ranged from the funny and creative to the thoughtful and heartbreaking: Before I die I want to… sing for millions, see my daughter graduate, eat a salad with an alien, see the leaves change many times, be someone’s cavalry, straddle the International Date Line, cook a souffle, hold her one more time, make it in the hip hop, help numerous children, see what I’m like as an old man, tell my mother I love her, make peace with Ohio, abandon all insecurities, be completely myself, evaporate into the light… The project was featured in Oprah Magazine and NBC’s Rock Center with Brian Williams, and The Atlantic called it “one of the most creative community projects ever."

After receiving many requests from people around the world, she and her Civic Center colleagues created a Before I Die Toolkit to help you create a wall with your community! Thanks to your passion, this wall is turning into a global participatory art project and expanding to cities around the world, including Amsterdam, Portsmouth, Querétaro, Almaty, San Diego, Lisbon, Brooklyn, London, and beyond – see other walls on the project site! You can also take a piece of the dream home with you with a limited edition painting and submit your dreams on the project site. We are currently developing a new site to provide more resources and help people showcase their walls around the world – stay tuned! The project is growing every day and together we can make public spaces that encourage us to reflect and, through our collective wisdom, help us lead better lives.

2011, 41′ x 8′, Chalkboard paint, stencils, spray paint. New Orleans, LA. 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. Installation assistance: Kristina Kassem, Alan Williams, Cory Klemmer, Anamaria Vizcaino, James Reeves, Alex Vialou, Sean Knowlton, Carolina Caballero, Earl Carlson, and Gary Hustwit. Concurrently installed in East/West Galleries. With support from the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

This wall was born in February, 2011, and died in September, 2011.

Twenty responses from the wall:

Before I die I want to get clean.
Before I die I want to live in New Orleans.
Before I die I want to go to Florence.
Before I die I want to see Victor.
Before I die I want to have a baby.
Before I die I want to teach yoga.
Before I die I want to not live an average life.
Before I die I want to follow my childhood dream.
Before I die I want to have a kid.
Before I die I want to own a mini tiger!
Before I die I want to catch the chalk theif.
Before I die I want to be published.
Before I die I want to swim without holding my nose.
Before I die I want to see equality.
Before I die I want to abandon all insecurities.
Before I die I want to live my best life.
Before I die I want to plant a tree.
Before I die I want to learn another language.
Before I die I want be the one she believes I am.
Before I die I want to see Jaylin learn to read.