New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by Candy Chang

Before I Die

New Orleans, Louisiana and worldwide
2011 – Present

Before I Die reimagines how the walls of our cities can help us grapple with mortality and meaning as a community today. After the death of someone she loved, Chang painted an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with the prompt, “Before I die I want to ___” as a way to restore perspective and find consolation with her neighbors. Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on death and life, and share their personal aspirations in public.

By the next day, the wall was entirely filled out and it kept growing: Before I die I want to… see my daughter graduate — sing for millions — abandon all insecurities — get my wife back — be someone’s cavalry — tell my mother I love her — make a livable wage — follow my childhood dream — have a student come back and tell me it mattered — hold her one more time — be completely myself. 

The Atlantic called it, “one of the most creative community projects ever,” and after receiving requests from people around the world, Chang made online resources for residents to create their own walls with their communities. Thanks to passionate people around the world, over 5,000 Before I Die walls have now been created by communities in over 75 countries, including Iraq, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan, and South Africa. Chang’s 2012 TED talk about Before I Die has been viewed over five million times and translated into over 40 languages. The participatory public art project has also inspired hundreds of remixes with community-specific prompts. A memento mori for the modern age, the installation reimagines our relationship with death and with one another in the public realm. Learn more on the Before I Die website.

2011 – present, New Orleans, Louisiana and worldwide. Chalkboard paint, spray paint, chalk. 8′ h x 41′ w. With permission from the property owner, residents of the block, the neighborhood association’s blight committee, the Historic District Landmarks Commission, the Arts Council of New Orleans, and the City Planning Commission. Installation assistance by Kristina Kassem, Cory Klemmer, Anamaria Vizcaino, James Reeves, Alan Williams, Alex Vialou, Earl Carlson, and Gary Hustwit. Subsequent support by the Black Rock Arts Foundation.

New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by Candy Chang
New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by Kristina Kassem
New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by Candy Chang
New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by Candy Chang
New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by Candy Chang
New Orleans, Louisiana | Photo by Candy Chang
Santiago, Chile | Photo by Bernd Biedermann.
Tokyo, Japan | Photo by Shintaro Kuzuhara
Lagos. Nigeria | Photo by Dara Olayebi.
Najaf, Iraq | Photo by Ahmed Alameri
Brooklyn, New York | Photo by Shake Shack.
Townsville, Australia | Photo by Kim Kamo
Bangkok, Thailand
Budapest, Hungary
Rennes, France | Photo by Benjamin Le Bellec
Cordoba, Argentina | Photo by Jenny Carden.
Savannah, Georgia | Photo by Trevor Coe
Querétaro, Mexico | Photo by Kristina Kassem
Beer-Sheva, Israel
Perm, Russia | Photo by Perm Artillery Museum.
Nilai, Malaysia
Kladno Czech Republic | Photo by Spolek Podpruhon
Birmingham, Alabama | Photo by Sweet Julep Photography
Daegu, South Korea | Photo by Juyoung Jung
Grand Rapids, Michigan | Photo by Emily Rose Bennett
Manchester, England | Photo by SICKFestival
Kézdivásárhely, Romania | Photo by Visit Kézdivásárhely
Montreal, Canada | Photo by Sebastien Camden
Asunción Paraguay | Photo by Jaime Torales
Auckland, New Zealand | Photo by Juan Molina
Kunming, China | Photo by Michelle Zhang
Erfurt, Germany | Photo by Burkhard Gruess
Guatemala City, Guatemala | Photo by Alejandro Morales
Lisbon, Portugal | Photo by Cristina Zabalaga
Newport News, Virginia | Photo by Kristina Kassem
Belo Horizonte, Brazil | Photo by Candy Chang

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