What's up with Detroit's 'Before I Die' chalkboard

Jul 29, 2015 at 12:20 pm
click to enlarge What's up with Detroit's 'Before I Die' chalkboard
Evan Gonzalez

When it comes to life goals, sometimes all it takes is an outlet to help flesh out dreams — a piece of paper, a notebook, or in this case, a chalkboard. Before I Die is a global public art project founded in 2011 by New Orleans artist Candy Chang, and made its way to Detroit with the help of James Millar, the Director of Activation at Bedrock Real Estate Services. The project launched on Monday.

The concept behind the project is to build a chalkboard with the phrase “Before I die I want to…” and provide members of the community pieces of chalk to finish the sentence. Some take the project to an emotional and deep level, some use it as a basic and attainable goal sheet, and some use it for comedic effect. No matter what the lines say in the end, the outcome is a wall full of aspirations and dreams that inspire passersby to pick up chalk and participate.

"Our public spaces are as profound as we allow them to be," says Chang. "Our public spaces are our shared spaces, and they have a lot of potential to offer us a more valuable and meaningful kind of life."

click to enlarge What's up with Detroit's 'Before I Die' chalkboard
Evan Gonzalez

Over 1,000 walls have been set up in 73 countries and in 36 languages across the world. After seeing its world recognition and the impact it had on communities, Millar researched how to get a wall in Detroit.

“When we learned about [the project] and realized how inspiring and inventive the project could be, we knew we had to bring it to Detroit,” said Millar. Bedrock Real Estate Services has been involved in many public art projects in recent months, from the street pianos to the outdoor art alley next to the Z parking garage.

“When getting these [projects] out there, it’s always about [people]," says Millar. "It’s about Detroit and community-led development that’s going to help us resurge as a city."

The wall is located at 1550 Woodward Avenue.

Matt Harmon is an intern for Metro Times.