“Before I Die”: Public Art Project by Candy Chang

It’s an honest mess of the longing, anxiety, joy, pain, gratitude, insecurity and wonder you find in every community…It’s like collective therapy in public space. Candy Chang, regarding Before I Die

Before I Die is merely one of the most creative community projects ever. The Atlantic

Candy Chang‘s public art project “Before I Die” got its inception in 2011 on the wall of an abandoned house in New Orleans and has since grown into an international phenomenon of over 400 walls.

What exactly goes on these walls? The unfulfilled dreams of anyone choosing to complete the sentence, “Before I die I want to…”.

Writer Maria Popova (Brainpickings.org) aptly calls this project “A Global Ethnography of Anonymous Aspirations in Chalk and Public Space.”

In her brief but highly popular TED talk, Chang explains further—including how a deep loss fueled the project, a loss that made her think more about death. Chang observes, “Preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life.”

Chang reportedly says that what comes across on the walls commonly includes such themes as personal well-being, loving, seeing the world, helping people, and self-understanding.

The top 10 of Chang’s favorites have been identified in a TED blog post. Read it and you’ll see related photos and find out why she chose these particular ones. Each starts with Before I die…

  1. I want to be completely myself (New Orleans, LA, USA).
  2. I want to stare at the stars with the people I love (Pohang City, South Korea).
  3. I want to own my own ice cream factory (Asunción, Paraguay).
  4. I want to be a stripper and a nun at the same time (Santiago, Chile).
  5. I want to see where my grandma grew up (Townsville, Australia).
  6. I want to have my own theme song (Johannesburg, South Africa).
  7. I want to overcome depression (Newport News, VA, USA).
  8. I want to create a typeface of my own (Almaty, Kazakhstan).
  9. I want to try lots of things (Brooklyn, NY, USA).
  10. I want to stop being afraid (Jerusalem, Israel).

Recently Chang’s work has become immortalized in a book. Before I Die features, says Publishers Weekly, “photos of these inspiring walls and their call-out quotes of writings, with the author explaining why each of the 48 featured locales was chosen. As a finale, Chang offers instructions on how interested readers can start a wall in their own city. Each wall is a tribute to living an examined life, she observes—a powerful and valuable reminder that life is for the living, and that it’s never too late, or too early, to join the party.”

Before I die I want to read this book.

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