Photo by Mack Sullivan

Artist Bio:

Through the activation of public spaces around the world, artist Candy Chang creates rituals that uncover the complexity of our inner lives. Her practice includes participatory installations of anonymous, handwritten reflections, as well as reproductions of these reflections through video and mixed media. She is interested in the future of ritual in public life and the aesthetics of the handwritten word. She is caretaker of over one million handwritten anxieties, hopes, pains, and moments of grace in the 21st century.

She is most known for her 2011 participatory public artwork Before I Die, which reimagines how the walls of our cities can help us grapple with mortality and meaning as a community today. Over 5,000 Before I Die walls have been created by communities in over 75 counties, and The Atlantic called it “one of the most creative community projects ever.” Trained in architecture, design, and urban planning, she originally created participatory art to reflect with neighbors on their neighborhood. After struggling with grief and depression, she used this medium to reflect on their psyches. She has created a monument of over 50,000 anxieties and hopes, transformed a building into a device for philosophical reflection, and created electric shrines on inner obstructions. She has worked with organizations including Mural Arts Philadelphia, Art Production Fund, the Rubin Museum of Art, and the Annenberg Foundation. She often collaborates with James A. Reeves and their work can be found at Ritual Fields.

She is a TED Senior Fellow, Urban Innovation Fellow, and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader. She is a recipient of the Tony Goldman Visionary Artist Award and was named a “Live Your Best Life” Local Hero by Oprah Magazine, as well as one of the Top 100 Leaders in Public Interest Design. Her work has been exhibited in the Venice Architecture Biennale, Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.


For speaking engagements, please contact:
The Lavin Agency
USA: 212-242-1212
Canada: 416-979-7979

Stay in touch:


Artist Statement:

During some of my darkest times, I’ve seen the value of rituals to restore perceptive, learn from others, and remember that our shared struggles and desires far outweigh our differences. As the world becomes more isolating, distracting, tribal, and secular, infrastructure for emotional communion feels more necessary than ever.

I create communal rituals to reflect on the human condition. Buildings, plazas, and walls become interactive spaces to reflect and reckon with the darker corners of our minds. Whether they’re written on the side of a building or hung on a gallery wall, each response is anonymous, unmasking the discomfort, dread, longing, gratitude, humor, pain, and grace found in every community. Each response is handwritten, loaded with character in the form of bold lines, pained scribbles, and modest letterforms. Together, they form an expressive and intimate portrait of our communities today and where we need help.

I am now caretaker of over one million handwritten reflections from people around the world. They console me and give me courage. I stamp them repeatedly like visual meditations, sequence them into videos, and deconstruct their letterforms. My methods are inspired by traditions of Asian calligraphy. I return these sentiments to the public to help others feel less alone and to admire the humanity of the handwritten word. It’s an act of devotion to these writers and their scribbled aches, like learning to write a more honest language about ourselves in this age.


Recent Public Art & Exhibitions

Light the Barricades, WALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine, The Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina, February 24 -July 25, 2021.

A Collective Curiosity: Her Voice in the Arts, Lamont Gallery, Exeter, New Hampshire, January 19 – June 6, 2021.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, Oakland Museum of California, Oakland, California, October 12, 2019 – February 16, 2020.

Confessions, Elsewhere, Wonderspaces, Scottsdale, Arizona, October 12, 2019 – January 1, 2020.

Light the Barricades, WALLS: Defend, Divide, and the Divine, Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles, California, September 5 – December 29, 2019.

Art of the City: Postmodern to Post-Katrina, The Helis Foundation and Historic New Orleans Collection, April 6 – October 6, 2019.

Confessions, In Common, Wonderspaces, San Diego, California, June 7 – September 1, 2019.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, Cincinnati Art Museum, Cincinnati, Ohio, April 26 – September 2, 2019.

A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful, The Rubin Museum of Art, New York, New York, February 10, 2018 – January 7, 2019.

Before I Die, Arts Center of Mississippi, Greater Jackson Arts Council, Jackson, Mississippi, 2019.

No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., March 30, 2018 – January 21, 2019.

Confessions, ARTsakh Fest, Institute of Contemporary Art, Stepanakert, Artsakh, Azerbaijan, October 5 – 7, 2018.

Confessions, Karoyan Gallery and Moscow Cinema, Yerevan, Armenia, October 10 – November 2, 2017

See full CV


Selected Talks

American Planning Association National Conference, Atlanta, Georgia

Center for Architecture, New York, New York

Centro de Arte Contemporânea Inhotim, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

City of San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas

Creativity World Forum, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Dallas Women’s Foundation, Dallas, Texas

Detroit Regional Chamber Policy Conference, Detroit, Michigan

Global Health Summit, New Orleans, Louisiana

Google, Macau, China

Green Building Alliance, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Metropolitan Planning Council, Chicago, Illinois

New Mexico Municipal League, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Psych Congress, San Diego, California

Rubin Museum of Art, New York, New York

Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta, GA

School of Visual Arts, New York, New York

Summer Public Art School, Turku, Finland

TED Conference, Long Beach, California

TED Global Conference, Edinburgh, Scotland

Visión Diseño Conference, Querétaro, Mexico

Vivid Sydney Festival, Sydney, Australia

Watermark Conference for Women, Santa Clara, California

We The City Conference, Vancouver, Canada 

WESTAF Public Art Symposium, Honolulu, Hawaii

Women Motion Picture & Television Fund, Beverly Hills, California

Women’s Leadership Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada

Youth Art Camp, Almaty, Kazakhstan


“Before I Die is merely one of the most creative community projects ever.”
—The Atlantic

“Candy Chang’s art serves as a wake-up call in our fast-paced digital age. Armed with little more than chalk, labels or post-it notes, she transforms nondescript urban spaces into compelling works that inspire the often device-obsessed masses to engage with each other, and the world around them.”
—Ad Age

“Chang’s emotionally driven projects prove we may have more in common with our neighbors than we think.”
— Forbes

See more press



The Varieties of Religious Experience
William James

Stories of Your Life / Exhalation
Ted Chiang

Just Kids
Patti Smith

White Noise
Don DeLillo

The Middle Passage
James Hollis

Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud

The Righteous Mind
Jonathan Haidt

J.G. Ballard

The Story of Philosophy
Will Durant

Devil in the White City
Erik Larson

The Machine at the End of the Mechanical Age
K.G. Pontus Hulten, ed. Museum of Modern Art

The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces
William Whyte

The Little Prince
Antoine Saint-Exupery


In the Mood for Love
Wong Kar Wai

Blade Runner
Ridley Scott

Apocalypse Now
Francis Ford Coppola

The Century of the Self
Adam Curtis

Ex Machina
Alex Garland

Carl Sagan

Lost in Translation
Sofia Coppola

8 1/2
Federico Fellini

Before Sunrise / Before Sunset / Before Midnight
Richard Linklater

The Host
Bong Joon Ho

The City of Lost Children
Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro

First Reformed
Paul Schrader

New York: A Documentary Film
Ric Burns


Sister Part 1
Cliff Martinez

Angor Wat Finale
Michael Galasso, Shigeru Umebayashi

A Trop Répéter Bien
Alice Dona

Walls of Silence
John Maus

Godspeed You! Black Emperor

Be Brave
Tropic of Cancer

I Will Return

Some Velvet Morning
Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra

Francoise Hardy

Aphex Twin

Spectacle of Ritual
Kali Malone

Far From the Atmosphere IV
Chihei Hatakeyama

The Voice of Love
Angelo Badalamenti