The Before I Die project With assistance from the Creative Communities Local Arts Funding Scheme, Arts Council have constructed and installed two free standing structures to instigate community participation in this project. The Ricmond installation is currently down but the Nelson one you will find in a pocket park in the CBD. We envisage that the structures will be relocated to other sites throughout the year. This participatory installation serves as an accessible memento mori where we can reflect upon our mortality with neighbours and passers-by. Each response represents an individual’s unique desires and values, and each wall offers a snapshot of our shared anxieties and hopes, our collective joys and struggles. By creating spaces where we can share our inner lives in public, Before I Die reimagines the ways we remember what really matters in an age of increasing distraction and flux. THE before l die STORY . . . Created by the artist Candy Chang, Before I Die is a global art project that invites people to contemplate mortality and share their personal aspirations in public. Drawing upon Michel de Montaigne’s proposition that “to philosophize is to learn to die,” the Before I Die project reimagines the ways the walls of our cities can help us grapple with death and meaning as a community today. Candy Chang created the first Before I Die wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans after the death of someone she loved. Joan was like a mother to her for fifteen years and there were still so many things she wanted to do: learn to play the piano, live in France, see the Pacific Ocean. The shock of her death sent Chang into a long period of grief and depression. Her inner world didn’t feel like it belonged outside at all and, looking at the messages she saw when walking down the street, she noticed how much we avoid confronting death. She made a homemade stencil that said, “Before I die I want to _____,” and she painted the side of a crumbling house in her neighbourhood with chalkboard paint and stencilled it with this prompt so that anyone walking by could pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on death and life, and share their personal aspirations in public. It was an experiment and she didn’t know what to expect., but by the next day, the wall was filled with responses bursting into the margins: Before I die I want to… follow my childhood dream, see my daughter graduate, abandon all insecurities, straddle the International Date Line, get my wife back, see my students become teachers, be ok with not understanding, be someone’s cavalry, hold her one more time, be completely myself. The gamut of humanity was on full display, and the wall became an honest mess of the longing, pain, joy, insecurity, gratitude, fear, and wonder you find in every community. As she read through the responses, Candy understood her neighbours in new ways, and she was reminded that she was not alone as she tried to make sense of life. 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. Neighbours 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 messages from people around the world who wanted to make a wall with their communities, so she enabled people to create their own walls. Today, thanks to passionate people around the world, there have been over 5,000 Before I Die walls in over 75 countries and 36 languages. Ref: beforeidieproject.com Please feel free to share your aspirations . . . Presented by Arts Council Nelson with assistance from the Creative Communities Local Arts Funding Scheme. We shall monitor the boards regularly but please let us know if chalk needs replenishing or should there be any inappropriate content added – call or text 027 326 9166. We reserve the right to erase content. Please also be advised that from time to time we may totally refresh the board to keep this an on-going, interactive and interesting project.