Before I Die: An Inspirational Art Installation on Metropolitan State University’s Campus

Today I met with Dr. B’s “Design and Maintenance in Recreation and Parks” class on the campus of Metropolitan State University of Denver. They recreated the “Before I Die” wall in their own design. To participate in the project and share your hopes and dreams, head over to the PE Building on the Auraria Campus in downtown Denver within the next two weeks.

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As written on Candy Chang’s official “Before I Die in NOLA” project page, “It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. When I lost someone I loved very much, I thought about death a lot. This helped clarify my life, the people I want to be with, and the things I want to do, but I struggled to maintain perspective. I wondered if other people felt the same way. So with help from old and new friends, I painted the side of an abandoned house in my neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with a grid of the sentence “Before I die I want to _______.” Anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.

It was 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, get clean, live off the grid, build a school, be someone’s cavalry, 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.

Thanks to passionate people, over 100 Before I Die walls have now been created in over 10 languages and in over 30 countries, including Kazakhstan, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Australia, Argentina, and South Africa. Each wall is unique and reflects the people of that community. Each wall is a tribute to living an examined life. Our public spaces are as profound as we allow them to be. The more we can share, the more we can make meaningful connections and make our places more ours. Each passerby is another person full of longing, anxiety, fear, and wonder. With more ways to share in public space, the people around us can not only help us make better places, they can help us become our best selves.”

Here is Candy Chang’s original TED talk video, birthplace of the “Before I Die” project.

We hope you feel inspired to “remix” tis project in your neighborhood. After receiving many requests, Candy created a Before I Die toolkit and the project site beforeidie.cc to help people make a wall with their community. You can also download all files for free to remix or create your own stencils.

Visit the project website beforeidie.cc for more walls, tools, and resources. Follow the Before I Die project on Twitter and Facebook to stay updated on the latest walls and responses. Watch my TED talk about the project. Have you created a Before I Die wall or remix? Please send your photos and stories to hello@beforeidie.cc!

Before-I-Die-01-before

Before the transformation

Before-I-Die-02-after

After finishing construction

Before-I-Die-NOLA-Candy-Chang-wall-angled

It grew a life of its own

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