Before I die… It’s good to be here.

Before I die

I love Candy Chang‘s work.

Candy Chang is “an artist who explores the intersection of public spaces and personal well-being.” She’s also a TED fellow. And she’s been creating waves with her creativity exploring important themes for years.

Let’s put it this way: Ms. Chang is kick-ass.

Following the death of a friend she put together Before I die… wondering if the gratitude, the pain, and clarity she felt (all at different stages) following the passing of a close friend was something others endured – or how exactly do others feel or what they might share …

This interactive experience began in her New Orleans neighborhood. With chalkboard paint she gathered up friends and painted the sides of an abandoned house creating a large space to share. The walls read “Before I die I want to _______.”

Anyone was then welcome to reflect and share in a public forum and space. Candy describes the experience:

It was all an experiment and I didn’t know what to expect. By the next day, the wall was bursting with handwritten responses and it kept growing: Before I die I want to… ‘sing for millions,’ ‘hold her one more time,’ ‘eat a salad with an alien,’ ‘see my daughter graduate,’ ‘abandon all insecurities,’ ‘plant a tree,’ ‘straddle the International Date Line,’ ‘be completely myself…’  People’s responses made me laugh out loud and they made me tear up. They consoled me during my toughest times. I understood my neighbors in new and enlightening ways, and the wall reminded me that I’m not alone as I try to make sense of my life.

Don’t you wish you knew those who are or were closest to you? And here was insight into her neighbors that would have otherwise been impossible.

And it brought many other communities together. All around the world. According to her website, The Atlantic called it “one of the most creative community projects ever. It continues:

[T]hanks to passionate people around the world, over 300 Before I Die walls have now been created in over 20 languages and over 50 countries, including Kazakhstan, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa.

That’s very cool. And quite an accomplishment. But it’s not just some profit-driven “thing.” It’s not even profit driven. What inspires me beyond the obvious?

What’s the kicker?!

Oh, let me tell you. Check it:

They have been a constant source of inspiration and therapy for me. Each wall is unique and reflects the people of that community. Each wall is a tribute to living an examined life. And with a few simple tools like chalkboard paint and stencils, it shows you don’t need a big budget to make a big impact [Emphasis added].

Yes, dear friends. She nails it and she’s now an internationally acclaimed artist. Her other pieces are just as and even more inspiring.

That’s what activism is:

Inspiration to change the world for the better!

One doesn’t need to have created Farm to Fridge to show people how animals are treated before they reach our plates. We can do that and work together off of the work that each puts in. I feel it’s important that unless supplemental work is needed, movements not waste limited resources recreating the wheel. Sharing costs and expertise is fantastic.

Now, we do have to be ethical; that’s non-negotiable. It’s important to always act responsibly as to not lose one of your biggest champions (if you are an organization) or your integrity (if you are either an org or individuals of any sort).

Candy’s bio:

She received a BS in Architecture, a BFA in Graphic Design, and a Masters in Urban Planning from Columbia University. Once a designer at The New York Times and the co-founder of a record label, she went on to collaborate with community groups to make citizens’ rights and resources more accessible. Projects included the award-winning Street Vendor Guide in New York City, as well as projects on criminal justice, tenants’ rights, and drug rehabilitation. After working with community groups in Nairobi, New Orleans, Johannesburg, Vancouver, and New York, she began to question the limitations we have in communicating with our entire community. Her questions, combined with her background in street art and urban planning, turned into experiments in public space [emphasis again added, of course.]

Yes. You are reading correctly [I think you are reading correctly, I mean, though I’m not in that head of yours!].

She created interactive public art projects to share housing costsmore resources, and memories and hopes for an abandoned building. She created  I Wish This Was to gather residents’ ideas for vacant storefronts — an idea that further developed into Neighborland, a tool to help people share and build on ideas for their communities.

Damned cool, Ms. Chang. Damned cool! Again:

Candy Chang, artist. Photo credit:



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