I Wish This Was was inspired by vacant storefronts. There are many where Candy lives in New Orleans. There are also many people who need and want things. Many of us walk by underutilized areas of our cities and have opinions of what we’d like to see there. What if we could easily say what we want, where we want it?
As an experiment, Candy created fill-in-the-blank stickers that say “I wish this was ____.” She placed boxes of free stickers in businesses around the city and posted grids of blank stickers and a permanent marker on vacant storefronts, so anyone walking by could fill one out. The stickers are vinyl and they can be easily removed without damaging property. Responses ranged from the functional to the poetic: I wish this was… a butcher shop, a community garden, a bike rack, an affordable farmer’s market, a taco stand, a place to sit and talk, Brad Pitt’s house, full of nymphomaniacs with PhDs, a source of tasty healthy food I could afford, my art gallery, your dream, Heaven. It’s a fun, low-barrier tool to provide civic input onsite, and the responses reflect the hopes, dreams, and colorful imaginations of different neighborhoods.
After seeing people respond to each other’s stickers (I wish this was a grocery too, 3 votes for that, If you can get the financing I will do the baking), Candy wondered, what if we want the same thing? What if we could prove there was a strong enough customer base for a new business or service to open? How can we make it easier for people to come together over shared goals? Thanks to the Urban Innovation Fellowship from Tulane University and the Rockefeller Foundation, she and her colleagues have taken this idea a few steps further and created a tool called Neighborland to help us join forces and build on ideas together. The I Wish This Was stickers are no longer sold because the Neighborland team is working to provide similar and more robust tools – purchase Neighborland stickers here.
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, and it just sounds right in this context.
November 2010 and beyond, Vinyl stickers, 4.5″ x 3″. New Orleans, LA. Read how residents have used it in The Times Herald.