TED Senior Fellow & Urban Space Artist and Designer
Candy Chang is the creator of the Before I Die project, which started when she stenciled the words "Before I die I want to _______." on a chalkboard wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans. Overnight it became a place for people to pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space. There are now more than 525 Before I Die walls in over 35 languages and over 70 countries, including Kazakhstan, Portugal, Japan, Denmark, Iraq, Argentina, and South Africa. The Before I Die book, which includes photographs of lots of walls from around the world, personal stories, and visual insights into our aspirations for urban living, was published in November 2013 and has been featured on CNN, TED, AP News, Brain Pickings, and Mashable.
Chang was chosen as one of six Community Advocates to speak on behalf of the 2012 TED Prize winner, “The City 2.0." During the ceremony, she spoke about her dreams for future cities. Her experience working with residents, community organizations, companies, and governments in cities around the world—on projects about street vendors' rights, criminal justice, housing costs, career choices, downtown revitalization, economic development, and personal goals—gives her speeches a unique perspective for improving lives.
Fast Company named Chang an Emerging Master of Design, and TED made her a Senior Fellow for 2011-2012. A former art director at The New York Times, and a 2011 Tulane/Rockefeller Foundation Urban Innovation Fellow, she has exhibited her work at the National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, and has created public art commissions for civic institutions, airports, and creative organizations. She has also been selected as a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader.
She is also the co-founder of Neighborland.com—a website that allows people to share their suggestions about improving the public spaces in their cities with others who have similar goals. This new digital tool provides residents with the resources needed to enact the changes they've suggested and even brings some of projects directly to the attention of policy makers.
Toward Better Public Spaces: Transforming Our Cities Through Art and Design
Combining urban planning, street art, and graphic design, Candy Chang transforms simple objects like stickers, stencils, and chalkboards into powerful tools that spark conversations in public spaces around the world. In her talks, she poses new strategies for civic life and inspires you to think differently about how you approach your own work. Through personal stories from her childhood to the present, she illustrates how seemingly disparate experiences in countries from Kazakhstan to South Africa to Finland have come together to incite new perspectives and form a coherent philosophy. Carefully crafted for each audience and cultivated from her own evolving questions, Chang's provocative and intimate talks explore the power of personal introspection in public space and what we can learn from our collective wisdom.
Making Space for Creativity and Innovation
A small seed of an idea can be the source of dramatic innovation. When Candy Chang stencilled the phrase "Before I die I want to_____" onto a derelict house in New Orleans, she invited anyone and everyone to participate. It was a simple act. And with it, she unleashed the latent creativity amongst the thousands of people who have taken part. The international success of her public art installations forged her reputation as someone who understood that, many times, the best ideas are communal ideas. Drawing on her body of work, Chang discusses the small acts and levers that have encouraged people to participate, to think differently. Public spaces can enable both self-realization and cooperative creativity. These lessons, slowly, have been absorbed by community organizations, educational groups, even companies of every size. Innovation, Chang says, can come from unlikely places. So it's important to create, as she has, the kinds of safe and engaging environments that allow ideas to flourish.
Before I Die
Available November 5, 2013
What do you want to do before you die?
When artist Candy Chang painted the side of an abandoned building with chalkboard paint and asked her neighbors this question, she never expected it to become a worldwide phenomenon. Within a day of the wall’s completion, however, it was covered in colorful chalk dreams as people stopped and reflected on their lives. Since then, more than two hundred walls have been created by people all over the world. This beautifully designed book is an inspiring celebration of these walls. Filled with our hopes, fears, humor, and heartbreak, it’s a reminder of our shared connections and a chance to ponder life’s ultimate question.
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