This post was written by Hatchet reporter Angelica Florio Roberts.
“Before I die I want to…”
These six words now line the construction wall in Kogan Plaza, prompting students to adorn the wall in chalk with messages of their future hopes and aspirations.
Part of the larger “Before I Die” campaign spearheaded by New Orleans-based artist Candy Chang, who attended today’s unveiling, the wall itself had been a dream of sophomore Brian Doyle. Doyle became inspired by Chang after hearing her speak about the project at a TED conference over the summer. Now, over a hundred walls stand in over 30 countries.
“I just want people to enjoy it, learn from it, see how different perspectives are diverse and how we all have different dreams and aspirations,” Doyle said about his goals for the wall.
The once blank, black wall was quickly embellished by the words of hundreds of participants. Eager students’ responses ranged from the poignant — “get my family out of poverty” — to the lighthearted: “own a bookstore” or “be a guest on the Ellen [DeGeneres] show.”
After losing a close loved one, Chang’s reflections on life and death prompted her to question what not only she, but those around her, wanted out of life. Fueling her sadness into creativity, Chang converted the wall of an abandoned house into a blank artistic slate to which the community could contribute.
“[The wall] is about getting to know the people around us in new and enlightening ways, it’s about making our public better reflect what matters to us both as a community and individuals, and it’s about seeing we are not alone as we struggle to lead fulfilling lives,” Chang said.
While the wall can be seen as an inspirational community project, some students expressed skepticism towards the concept.
“The idea behind the wall is good, but I think using the word ‘die’ is kind of morbid. I would’ve used a more positive word to get across the same message,” sophomore Ana Cvetkovic said.
Chang acknowledged that death is not often spoken about in public, but explained the importance of thinking about it in her speech.
“In our age of increasing distractions, it’s more important than ever to find ways to maintain perspective and remember that life is brief and tender,” Chang said.
Both Chang and Doyle share high hopes for the wall in its community-building potential.
“Public spaces are our shared spaces and they have the power to snap us out of our routines and restore our profound appreciation of what it means to be alive in the world today. We struggle with a lot of the same issues, and there’s great power in knowing you’re not alone,” Chang said. “You’ll see it on this wall.”