'Before I Die' wall draws responses, attention

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wwltv.com

Posted on May 24, 2011 at 6:46 PM

Updated Wednesday, May 25 at 7:20 AM

Mike Hoss / Eyewitness News

NEW ORLEANS – You might not know it’s coming, but when you see it, it’s hard not to stop and take it all in, or maybe snap a picture.

A blighted property at the corner of Marigny and Burgundy streets is now the home to the "Before I Die" wall, chalkboard painted plywood, where you answer the ultimate question: “Before I die, I will...”

Some are silly, like meeting Bill Murray or riding a camel, or serious like beating cancer, or sweet like buy my mom a car.

Ted Schaner, traveling the U.S. on his motorcycle, happened upon it by accident, and it made him think.

“Yeah, I was thinking about what I should put down,” Schaner said. “But I think I got it figured out.”

Angele Vialou lives nearby and once felt the property was a blighted nuisance, but now she says it's whimsical and ultimately very positive.

“I mean, it’s been very fun to watch this whole wall change every single day, and you see some really beautiful wonderful new things up here about what people want to do before they die.”

And this is the wall's creator, Candy Chang. Last year at this time she lived in Finland, when suddenly several people close to her died.

“It made me think about what's really important to me in my life,” Chang said.

And with that Chang quit her job and moved to New Orleans, because she always wanted to live here. She does so now, just a few blocks from the wall.

“I thought about how I could make it a nicer space for my neighborhood, and I thought about this question that really changed me over the last year,” Chang said.

Chang's background is in architecture and graphic design. She said the city permitted wall – her first, by the way – falls somewhere between art and urban planning.

The reaction to it has been stunning.

“I'm blown away,” Chang said. “I'm totally blown away by the responses from people, and it's made me laugh out loud and also tear up.”

Chang said it takes just a couple of days to fill up an entire "Before I die" wall. But when that happens, they'll come out, wash the whole thing down. A couple of days later, it's full of brand new ideas again.

“Because New Orleans is so bursting with colorful personalities, that’s why the wall is too,” Chang said, laughing.

Around the corner of this house and on other blighted properties is another of Chang's projects, a grid of removable vinyl stickers that simply read "I wish this was," and again, you complete the sentence.

She wants the neighborhood to drive the conversation on what a blighted property could be. Maybe it's functionality, like a dentist office, a fresh produce store or a playground, or maybe it's more poetic.

“You know, I wish this was heaven or Brad Pitt's house, or covered in bacon,” Chang said.

And in this case it worked, because someone wrote “I wish this was ‘a rebuilt/ restored cottage.’” Chang said it will be, because her wall on the other side will soon come down, as someone bought the property and the blight will be a home again.

And remember our motorcycle friend Schaner, who looked at the wall and said he had it figured out?

“Well before I die, I'll come here once more,” Schaner said.

Let’s hope there's many more, just like him.

The next phase of the “I wish this was" sticker will be a website component to put business with the ideas, to put the idea with the people who can make it happen. That’s coming, and so are more "Before I die" walls.

Chang said she's had hundreds of requests from around the world, because of the response to the first one she put up in Marigny.

For more information on the project, head to http://www.civiccenter.cc/

 

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