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, the experience 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, help numerous children, 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 restore perspective, remember we are not alone, and understand our neighbors in new and enlightening ways. 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 many requests from people around the world, 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. Thanks to passionate people around the world, the project has expanded to South Africa, the Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, Portugal, Kazakhstan, 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 generous support from the Black Rock Arts Foundation.
Visit the project site beforeidie.cc for more.
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February 2011 and beyond. 41′ x 8′, Chalkboard paint, stencils, spray paint, chalk. 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. Project coordinator: Kristina Kassem. 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. You have permission to use photos below for publicity of the project. Photos by Civic Center, unless credited otherwise.