Every once in a while, we encounter a project so jaw-dropping that we just have to be a part of it. That was the case when I first heard about Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” project. It was probably about four years ago when a friend introduced me to this incredible, interactive community art project. I was immediately inspired and knew I wanted to bring the project to the metro.
After the loss of a loved-one, New Orleans artist Candy Chang, wanted to turn an abandoned building across from her home into something that would allow her neighbors to reveal something important, so she turned an entire exterior wall into a giant chalkboard. Then she handmade a stencil with a simple message: Before I die, I want to.
The message was repeated all throughout the wall, giving folks the chance to share something off their bucket list. Today, more than 4,000 “Before I Die” walls have been created in over 70 countries. This project has made an impact on lives all over the globe.
Some people reveal personal, intimate secrets. Others write something funny. I saw one where somebody dressed in full pirate costume wrote, “Before I die, I want to be arrested for piracy.” I became so eager to set up a wall of our own. In fact, it’s fair to say that if had I seen a wall during the years when I was thinking about this, I would’ve written, “Before I die, I want to build a board like this.”
Given the public nature of the project, it took a little bit of bureaucratic wrangling to get everything approved. Luckily, we were able to work with the wonderful team at the White Bear Center for the Arts and the very helpful staff at the City of White Bear Lake to make our vision a reality.
On June 12, we unveiled our gigantic chalkboard on 3rd St. and Bald Eagle Ave. The installation will run during the Manitou Days festival, through the week of July fourth.
From the moment people had access to the wall, we were overwhelmed by the response of the White Bear Lake community. It’s been humbling and wonderful to watch people take part in this project. One of the most remarkable things about “Before I Die,” is that the work becomes more powerful when more people participate. One entry can make you smile or think; others can bring a tear to your eye.
I want to thank everyone who participated in making our “Before I Die” wall such a success, including the White Bear Center for the Arts, the city of White Bear Lake, the volunteers who
helped us build the wall, and everyone who shared a message. We couldn’t have done it without all of your help.
Because of your selflessness and willingness to contribute, I get to
cross something off of my bucket list. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you.
Here’s a little gallery of our progress…