When Candy Chang lost someone she loved very much, the experience helped clarify her life but she struggled to maintain perspective. She wanted to know what was important to the people around her.
With help from old and new friends, Candy 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 could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in a public space.
By the next day the wall was entirely filled out and it kept growing. 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 restore perspective, remember we are not alone, and understand our neighbors in new and enlightening ways.
The original installation was created February 2011 (at the corner of Marigny St and Burgundy St in New Orleans) and lasted until October 2011. At that point the property was purchased and the house is currently being renovated and turned into a home again. The project has since spread worldwide and walls have been created by communities in Mexico, the Netherlands, Australia, Kazakhstan, Canada, and cities all over America 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 is an artist, designer, urban planner, and co-founder of Civic Center, a civic design studio in New Orleans. 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.
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