Before I Die

What is important to you?



One month and seven hours of intense stenciling later and it’s up! With a lot of support from old and new friends, I turned the side of an abandoned house in my neighborhood into a giant chalkboard where residents can write on the wall and remember what is important to them. Before I Die transforms neglected spaces into constructive ones where we can learn the hopes and aspirations of the people around us. It turns out this entire process (including obtaining official approval from many entities) has been a great lesson, experience, and project in itself – more on that later. If you’re in New Orleans, stop by the corner of Marigny and Burgundy (900 Marigny Street) to add your thoughts to the wall and see what matters most to your neighbors. It’s a question that has changed me in the last year, and I believe the design of our public spaces can better reflect what’s important to us as residents and as human beings. The responses and stories from passersby while we were installing it have already hit me hard in the heart. More installations to come. Huge thanks to Kristina Kassem, Alan Williams, Cory Klemmer, Anamaria Vizcaino, James Reeves, Alex Vialou, Sean Knowlton, Carolina Caballero, and Gary Hustwit for installation assistance and many others for support along the way! Concurrently installed in East/West Galleries. A project site is in the works.

Made with primer, chalkboard paint, stencils, spray paint, chalk, people. 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. 2011.

Update Feb 26, 2011 – Wow. Check out the wall of responses after one day! Photo strip here.

Once the wall is filled, we wash the board with water and start with a clean slate again. We are documenting all responses and some will be included in a book. The response to this project has been incredible – thank you! I have received many requests from people who’d like to install it in their city. I would love to spread the love, and we are currently working on providing a large one-column stencil that will make it much easier to reproduce. We are also interested in visiting your city to install it together and learn more about the stories behind your buildings. If you’d like to spread the love to your city or if you have support suggestions or beyond, let us know!

Update March 16, 2011 – This out-of-pocket project now has a pocket thanks to the Black Rock Arts Foundation! It will make a huge difference, thank you.

Update April 2, 2011: Every day blown away by all the thoughtful, creative, funny, and heartbreaking responses. One day after washing it again:

Time to evaporate into the light… I knew that this project on this house in my neighborhood would come to an end at some point, and I couldn’t ask for a better way. Someone bought the house and, to comply with city regulations on blight, must begin renovations soon. For the record, they are fans of the project and have done everything they can to let it ride before turning this building into a home again after years of collecting dust. So if you’d like to see and share on the wall, I encourage you to come before Sunday April 10th. But this isn’t the end. It will rise again in another place in New Orleans. Thank you for all the love for this project! I’m blown away by the responses on the wall and beyond, and the project will continue to expand to other cities and grow for years to come. We are currently working on providing a large one-column stencil that will make it much easier to reproduce. A project site is also in the works where everyone can share their hopes and dreams from all the corners of the world. And I’m very happy that this house will become a home again.

Who is candy chang?

Candy Chang is a public installation artist, designer, urban planner, and co-founder of Civic Center who likes to make cities more comfortable for people. This is her site. Candy Chang

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