social change | January 23, 2013

Candy Chang Inspires GW University Students To Recreate 'Before I Die'

Brian Doyle, a student at George Washington University in D.C., wanted to bring a "positive, community-building project to his campus." When he saw Candy Chang speak at TED Global, he knew that her "Before I Die" installation was exactly what he was looking for. The project originated in New Orleans and uses simple materials (a black wall and sidewalk chalk) to help communities spread messages of hope and inspiration. The phrase "Before I Die..." is written on the wall, and participants complete the phrase with their own dreams. The simple—but powerful— concept has become wildly popular with diverse groups of people all around the world. So far, there are over 100 walls that have been started in over 30 countries.

As Doyle says, "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." Even though the project is a temporary installation, it brings communities together and allows people to share a part of themselves that they may not have had the opportunity to otherwise. Chang, who attended the unveiling of this particular wall at the university, uses art to redefine public spaces. The Senior TED Fellow creates installations that allow residents to share information and feel more comfortable in their surroundings.

“[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," Chang says, "and it’s about seeing we are not alone as we struggle to lead fulfilling lives." Public spaces have the power to remind us of what's important in life and snap us out of our routines, and Chang's work hopes to redefine the way we see our urban environments. In her projects and her touching keynotes, Chang reminds us that we are all in this together—and sometimes we need to take a break from our busy lives to remember that.

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leadership | January 22, 2013