Sing for millions, see my daughter graduate, learn a second language, write a book, live humbly, become the President of the United States. These are just a few examples of the hopes and dreams collected in the much talked about global public art project Before I Die, created by installation artist, designer, urban planner and woman you should know, Candy Chang.  Before I Die was constructed as a platform to redefine the way information is shared and to encourage people to become more invested and engaged in their communities by voicing their opinions for all to see and to effect change.

Candy Chang is a recognized leader in developing new strategies for rethinking the design of cities by using large-scale projects that combine installation art with social activism. Candy created the original wall for the project in February 2011 by painting the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciling the phrase “Before I die I want to _____”.  This simple execution became an open invitation to area residents to write on the wall, reflect on their lives and share their aspirations in a public space, while at the same time adapting a dilapidated building for a more constructive and positive purpose. The idea for the Before I Die project was sparked after Candy lost someone she loved and contemplated the question for herself.

“We believe that public spaces should inspire conversation, make the machinery of the city more accessible, and restore a sense of dignity to the public realm,” says Candy.

Before-I-die-New Orleans-Civic CenterSince its inception the project has taken off and has been touted as “one of the most creative community projects ever,” by The Atlantic Magazine. Of the dozen Before I Die walls that have already been erected, Candy has received over 25,000 responses. There are also over 24 current and upcoming walls all over the world including: South Africa, the Netherlands, Mexico, Australia, Portugal, Kazakhstan, and beyond.

After receiving numerous requests from people to erect Before I Die walls in their communities, Candy and her colleagues at her company Civic Center, created a Before I Die toolkit, empowering and encouraging people to make their own walls. The kit provides a step-by-step guide to creating a wall including a “letter of support” from Candy in an effort to help folks secure permission from local community leaders to erect a Before I Die wall.

Candy puts it perfectly, “You never know how long our lives are, so let’s enjoy it,” she said. “Public art has the power to snap you out of your daily routine and remind you why you want to be alive in the world today.”

Before I die I want to….

More about Candy
Her projects come from questions she has about improving her community and herself. She is a TED Senior Fellow, an Urban Innovation Fellow, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and was named a “Live Your Best Life” Local Hero by Oprah Magazine. She received a BS in Architecture, a BFA in Graphic Design, and a Masters in Urban Planning from Columbia University.

Candy is also the co-founder of Civic Center, an art and design studio in New Orleans, and Neighborland, an online tool for people to shape the development of their communities. Her work has been exhibited in the National Design Triennial at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and she has created public art commissions for civic institutions, international airports, and creative organizations. She has received awards from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

If you have had the opportunity to write on a Before I Die wall, you can submit your personal experience interacting with the wall to Candy here. Submissions will be considered for inclusion in the upcoming book, Before I Die, to be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2013.