BEFORE I DIE IS A PARTICIPATORY PUBLIC ART PROJECT that invites people to contemplate death, reflect on life, and share their personal aspirations in public. After losing someone she loved, Chang channeled her grief and depression into this project on an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood to restore perspective and find consolation with her neighbors. She covered the crumbling house with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with the prompt, “Before I die I want to _____.” The wall quickly filled up with responses, from the poetic to the profound: Before I die I want to… see my daughter graduate, abandon all insecurities, get my wife back, eat all the candy and sushi in the world, be a Youtube sensation, straddle the International Date Line, tell my mother I love her, be completely myself.
Chang created a project site with step-by-step resources and thanks to passionate people around the world, over 1,000 Before I Die walls have now been created in over 70 countries, including Iraq, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan, and South Africa. Revealing the community’s longings, anxieties, joys, and struggles, the project explores how public space can cultivate self-examination and empathy among neighbors and compassionately prepare us for death and grief. It has also inspired dozens of remixes that offer new ways to engage with the people around us.