"Before I Die" Project

"Before I Die" Project
Photo by Hannah Lutz

The Rogers Park- Edgewater border is the site of a public art project that has recently been evoking hope and passion from the area’s neighbors. Candy Chang started the “Before I Die” wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans. Since then, she has been a great advocate of building community through public art displays. She enlists appeal by incorporating an interactive element with the community.

One of her projects “Looking for Love Again” allowed Fairbanks, Alaska residents to share and collect stories of the now vacant Polaris Building. The project turned the building into a drawing board that generated an emotional haven for people to share their memories of the building and their hopes for its future.

Chang then started the “I Wish This Was” project in New Orleans. She placed boxes of free stickers in the area, and people could write their ideas for the neighborhood and stick them on vacant storefronts. This project provided direct community input and generated engagement within the community.

Chang’s latest project is “Before I Die,” and with the help of her supporters, she has brought it to Chicago. Although “Before I Die” made its original debut in New Orleans, it has quickly spread to cities like Chicago, Brooklyn, San Diego, Montreal, London and many more. Chang began this community-builder with the hope to transform a forgotten space. Her mission with the mural is to improve the well-being of neighboring communities and of the individuals within these communities. Good News Only and Chicago Urban Art Society organized the site on Granville Avenue. The groups painted the vacant wall with chalkboard paint and wrote lines reading “Before I die I want to…” This mural collects and displays the Rogers Park- Edgewater communities’ hopes, dreams and aspirations as one. It encourages residents to reflect on what really matters through the chaos of daily life.

The “Before I Die” wall has had so much success on Granville that walls have been going up all around the city. The murals are even becoming culturally accessible as Chinatown’s wall will have a Chinese translation and Pilsen plans to put up a Spanish wall.

“Before I Die” is a creative and interactive way to cater to the entire community. It evokes the positivity and contemplation that is beneficial to every neighborhood.

By writing your wish on the wall, you gain support from the community and take on the challenge to make your dream a reality.

Rogers Park- Edgewater’s “Before I Die” wall is located at 1101 W. Granville Ave. Now a collage of overlapping colors and words represents the hopes and dreams of our community.

Write your response on the wall or tweet it with the hash tag #BeforeIDieChi.

Some of your neighbors’ responses:

Before I die I want to…

  • Meet Lady Gaga.
  • Wipe out homophobia.
  • Save a life.
  • Have children.
  • Make the world beautiful.
  • Tell stories.
  • Meet my neighbors.
  • Fall in love.
  • See the world.
  • Become more like Christ.
  • Spread happiness and colors.
  • Play live in San Francisco.
  • See the Cubs win a World Series.
  • Climb Mt. Everest.
  • Be happy.
  • Shave my head.
  • Capture Chicago through polaroids.
  • Watch my kids go to college.
  • Make my mark.

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