Artist Candy Chang will discuss the inspiration for her public art installation Before I Die and why it’s important to engage with each other.
Photo courtesy Candy Chang
This article originally appeared in Winter Park Magazine’s summer 2017 issue. It is republished here with permission.
Candy Chang is best known for her public art installation, Before I Die. But she’s found plenty of other ways to transform and enliven mundane urban spaces. In Hong Kong, for example, she hung official-looking signs that identify areas where “kissing, crying or freaking out” are encouraged.
Chang, an artist and urban designer, lost a close friend to death in 2009. While grieving and contemplating the preciousness of life, she hit upon the idea of morphing an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood into an art installation that would encourage people to consider what they wished to accomplish in the years allotted to them.
So she turned the side of the forlorn structure into a giant chalkboard bearing the stenciled words, “Before I die, I want to_________.” Almost immediately, hundreds of blanks were filled in with observations that were at times funny, at times heartbreaking, and at times inspiring. The idea caught on, and now Before I Die installations have spread to more than 2,000 cities in 70 countries worldwide. What would yours be?
Chang, whose TED Talk about the project is now approaching 5 million views, uses Before I Die installations to coax passers-by into sharing everything from their greatest hopes to their deepest anxieties. The Atlantic has called Before I Die “one of the most creative community projects ever.”
In her captivating talks, Chang demystifies the creative process and inspires personal reflection. Through the activation of public spaces, she provokes playful and profound visions for how people can connect and nurture the health of their communities.
Her book, Before I Die (St. Martin’s Griffin) features walls from around the world and has received wide media coverage.
Before I Die is one of many thought-provoking ways in which Chang has transformed urban nooks and crannies. She also has created interactive installations on vacant storefronts, inviting people to share what they hope will eventually occupy the spaces. She has opened a confessional sanctuary in a Las Vegas casino and has hung signs in Hong Kong that identify areas where “kissing, crying and freaking out” are encouraged. The tech-savvy Chang has even designed a software program, Neighborland.com, which enables civic leaders to engage with residents and prioritize issues of local importance.
Chang’s work has been exhibited in the Venice Biennale of Architecture, the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, and the Tate Modern in London. She was also named one of the “Top 100 Leaders in Public Interest Design” by Impact Design Hub and a “Live Your Best Life Local Hero” by O, The Oprah Magazine.
“Candy Chang’s art serves as a wake-up call in our fast-paced digital age,” writes Ad Age. “Armed with little more than chalk, labels or post-it notes, she transforms nondescript urban spaces into compelling works that inspire the often device-obsessed masses to engage with each other and the world around them.”
Before I Die: A Participatory Art Installation
Thursday, January 18, 7:30 p.m.
Tiedtke Concert Hall
Ticket prices: $10-$25
Rollins faculty, staff, and students receive free admission to Winter Park Institute events. Faculty and staff members can request two free tickets, and Rollins students can request one free ticket. To reserve your tickets, contact the Rollins box office at BoxOffice@rollins.edu or 407-646-2145.