Before I die, I want to…

This is excerpted from a short statement New Orleans’ Candy Chiang prepared on the origin and workings of the “Before I Die” activities that she inspired.

New Orleans, she explained “has some of the most beautiful architecture in the world, but it also has one of the highest amounts of abandoned properties in America. I live near this house, and I thought about how I could make it a nicer space for my neighbourhood…

“In 2009, I lost someone I loved very much. Her name was Joan and she was a mother to me, and her death was sudden and unexpected. And I thought about death a lot, and this made me feel deep gratitude for the time I’ve had, and brought clarity to the things that are meaningful to my life now. But I struggle to maintain this perspective in my daily life…

“So with help from old and new friends, I turned the side of this abandoned house into a giant chalkboard and stencilled it with a fill-in-the-blank 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.

“I didn’t know what to expect from this experiment, but by the next day, the wall was entirely filled out, and it kept growing…I started receiving hundreds of messages from passionate people who wanted to make a wall with their community, so my civic centre colleagues and I made a tool kit, and now walls have been made in countries around the world, including Kazaakhstan, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and beyond.

Together we’ve shown how powerful our public spaces can be if we’re given the opportunity to have a voice and share more with one another…”

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