I Wish This Was is a participatory public art project that explores the methods of civic engagement. Inspired by the limitations of community meetings and the abundance of abandoned buildings, Chang posted thousands of “I wish this was _____” stickers on vacant buildings across New Orleans to invite residents to easily share their hopes for these spaces. The stickers are vinyl and can be easily removed without damaging property. Designed in the style of Hello-my-name-is tags, the installations provide a recognized trope for passersby to participate and consider the evolving identities of the built environment. Responses ranged from the functional to the poetic: I wish this was… a butcher shop, a community garden, a place to sit and talk, a city without theft, your dream, Heaven. Infusing street art, urban planning, and ethnographic research, the project reveals the hidden but abundant voices of the city, challenges how these voices can be heard, and provokes new insights for what New Orleans might yet become. The project was part of the Ethnographic Terminalia exhibition at Du Mois Gallery, New Orleans, and was also featured in the Spontaneous Interventions exhibition at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.
This experiment became the prototype for Neighborland, a nationwide tool co-founded by Chang, Dan Parham, and Tee Parham that helps organizations and residents collaborate on the future of their communities to enact real change, including night markets, bike lanes, food truck law reforms, and park improvements. Those interested in using the stickers are welcome to purchase revised versions here or print their own by downloading these files.
2010, New Orleans. Vinyl stickers, permanent markers, vacant buildings. 4.5″ x 3″ each. To those concerned about the subjunctive mood (“I wish this was” vs. “I wish this were”): Long discussions on the topic suggest that both usages are acceptable. This project is about striking up a casual conversation in the city.