Candy Chang: Before I die... Street art for the people

NEW ORLEANS, January 7, 2014— In some cases, for a piece of modern art to be truly appreciated, it has to change the viewer’s perspective on life, if only for a second. Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” project does just that, incorporating both intrigue and tact into her idea. 

On the outer concrete of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art, off of Camp Street, spans a dark chalkboard wall— printed in rows of seven, the phrase, “Before I die I want to,” neatly covers the duration of the space, leaving room for answers from passerby. Smudged in every hue imaginable, the building’s surface transforms into a canvas for strangers to leave samples of their personalities to the public eye. From crude jokes to sincere hopes, the “Before I Die” project presents pedestrians with an opportunity to contemplate life for a few minutes. 

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Before I die New Orleans, Johannsburg, Mexico / Courtesy of artist

Before I die New Orleans, Johannsburg, Mexico / Courtesy of artist website

Not only does Chang’s wall permit an introspective moment in oneself, but also provides a glimpse at the desires of the surrounding population.

One line reads, “Before I die, I want to walk down the aisle to you.” Another says, “Before I die, I want to perfect something that the world will appreciate.” 

The artist originally presented the city, often viewed as harsh and vicious, the chance to bare its soul on a chalkboard in 2011. After suffering from the loss of someone close to her heart, Chang was inspired to soul-search. The end result of her meditations encouraged her to attempt the social project. Chalkboards soon dominated the side of an abandoned house in the community and the New Orleans neighborhood answered her call. Her successful undertaking now connects over  sixty countries across the globe in pure human self-examination.

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Her website outlines a more intimate account of her history and displays an abundance of snapshots of her walls worldwide. Additionally, she posts other projects of hers, which include anonymous confessions, a literal career path, and deep-seated wishes.

Chang is currently selling “Before I Die,” a collection of chalkboard photographs from New York to Paraguay to South Korea. Those interested in setting up a wall for their own town can consult the website, where specific instructions and a tool kit can be ordered for $125 online. 

Sometimes, humans need a reminder that we’re still human. Candy Chang’s “Before I Die” wall is an excuse to indulge in a daily dose of passion, whether you’re 20 years old and idealistic or 70 years old and seasoned. 

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Megan Boyanton

Megan Boyanton is a Mass Communications major and freshman at the Louisiana Scholars' College in Natchitoches, Louisiana. She not only writes in the "Out and About Louisiana" column, but hosts a morning radio show on KNWD 91.7 FM "The Demon."

She is an active member of the Phi Mu female fraternity. Raised outside of Seattle, Washington, she has resided in the Deep South for the majority of her eighteen years and has an intense passion for traveling. 

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