Before I Die
Before I Die
Is the amazing brainchild of New Orleans artist Candy Chang. She is using blackboards that line the outside of an abandoned home in New Orleans to encourage people to think about their hopes and dreams. It is a symbol of rebirth and a testament to New Orlean’s resilience and creativity.
In Chang’s words…
It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. When I lost someone I loved very much, I thought about death a lot. This helped clarify my life but I struggled to maintain perspective. I wanted to know what was important to the people around me and I wanted a daily reminder. So with help from old and new friends, I painted the side of an abandoned house in my neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint 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 and I didn’t know what to expect. 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, eat all the candy and sushi in the world, 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 have made me laugh out loud, tear up, and feel consolation during my own tough times. The wall transformed a neglected space into a constructive one made by and for the community. It helps us understand our neighbors in new and enlightening ways. It helps us see we are not alone. It provides a space for contemplation and perspective to remind us why we want to be alive in the world today.
I created the original wall in February of 2011 and after posting some photos online, the project spread. After receiving hundreds of requests from people around the world. You can also download all files for free to remix or create your own stencils. The Before I Die wall shows you don’t need a big budget to make a big impact, and thanks to passionate people, this project has expanded to countries around the world, including Kazakhstan, South Africa, Japan, the Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, Portugal, Italy, and Argentina. Over 50 Before I Die walls have now been created in over 20 countries and in over 10 languages, including Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, Italian, Russian, French, and Kazakh. Walls have been created by residents, students, artists, civic leaders, community organizations, conference and festival organizers, exhibition curators, arts and cultural organizations, and beyond.
Each wall is unique, each wall reflects the people of that community, and each wall is a tribute to living an examined life. 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’ve shown how powerful our public spaces can be if we’re give the opportunity to have a voice and share more with one another. Together we can make public spaces that better reflect what matters to us as a community and as individuals.
Visit the project website funofart.com for more walls, tools, and resources to make your own wall! Follow FunOfArt on Twitter for the latest news. Have you created a Before I Die wall or remix? Please send your photos and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org!
After receiving many requests, we created a to help people make a wall with their community! It includes a one-column stencil in thick mylar so that it is easy to hang rigid without buckling. It also includes a title stencil, guide, metal chalk holders, nails, gloves, and chalk. All files are also available for download if you’d like to create your own stencils.