New Orleans, Louisiana

After the death of someone she loved, Candy Chang created the first Before I Die wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans.

New Orleans, Louisiana

After the death of someone she loved, artist Candy Chang went through a long period of grief and depression. With time, she felt gratitude for the time they had together and eventually she found clarity in her life by contemplating death. But she struggled to maintain this perspective. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day and forget what really matters to you. So with help from old and new friends, she covered the side of an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with the sentence, “Before I die I want to _______” so anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.

The next day, the wall was completely filled with responses and it kept growing. Before I die I want to sing for millions. See my daughter graduate. Abandon all insecurities. Straddle the International Date Line. See the leaves change many times. Be someone’s cavalry, hold her one more time, be completely myself. People’s hopes and dreams made her laugh out loud, tear up, and feel consolation during some of her toughest times. She understood her neighbors in new and enlightening ways, and she remembered that she is not alone as she tried to make sense of her life.

New Orleans, Louisiana

This neglected space had become a constructive one where strangers who ordinarily had little to do with one another began taking care of it. Some people donated chalk while others helped wash the wall. Neighbors introduced themselves while reading through the day’s responses. “People are around all the time,” said the grandmother who lived across the street. “The block is safer now.”

Ten months later, the wall in New Orleans ended for the happiest of reasons: a new owner rebuilt the property and the house became a home again. But this wasn’t the end of the project. Candy received hundreds of unexpected messages from people around the world who wanted to make a Before I Die wall with their communities. So she created step-by-step resources for people to create their own walls and thanks to passionate people around the world, there are now over four thousand Before I Die walls in over seventy-five countries and thirty languages.

Selected Responses

I want to abandon all insecurities.

I want to hold her one more time.

I want to see my daughter graduate.

I want to get my wife back.

I want to evaporate into the light.

I want to love recklessly again.

I want to be someone's cavalry.

I want to eat a salad with an alien.

I want to straddle the International Date Line.

I want to teach my grandkids to garden.

I want to have a student come back and tell me it mattered.

I want to be completely myself.

I want to see the leaves change many times.

I want to read the full Constitution.

I want to eat all the candy and sushi in the world.

I want to tell my mother I love her.

I want to write a bedtime story.

I want to help my neighbor.

I want to see what I'm like as an old man.

I want to be an international dancing sensation.

I want to enjoy every day in many ways.

I want to see peace in the world.

I want to have many adventures.

I want to find out who I am.

I want to look back and be able to say I did my best..