By Rolando G. Murillo
I was first introduced to the designer Candy Chang a year, or so, ago. I saw her speak at an arts event sponsored by the City of San Antonio. Before then, I hadn’t heard her name, but I did know her work. At least, was vaguely aware of it.
According to Vincent T. Davis, a writer at the San Antonio Express-News, “In 2011, artist Candy Chang started the project in New Orleans to remember a loved one who had died. She painted the side of an abandoned house with chalkboard paint along with a grid and the sentence ‘Before I die I want to…’ Chang left pieces of chalk so passers-by could write their sentiments on the wall.”
Well, technically, I can’t give her complete credit for the BIG idea. Nor, is it a new idea. I mean, I knew it as the “Bucket List” long before I had heard of Candy Chang’s version of it. But, still, Chang deserves some well deserved credit.
What she did do was make the bucket list public. She offered regular people, out in the street, the opportunity to express a secret, or not-so-secret, wish or unrealized dream. Much like the milagro wall in a Catholic church, it gives people a place to post their hopes and prayers. Putting it on the wall makes the prayer, wish or dream real.
In today’s digital world, where anyone could tweet or post their wishes, hopes and secrets for the world to read, this physical wall gives a unique opportunity to anyone brave enough to reveal something very personal out in the public. It is as public as the impersonal internet can make it, but it also offers the personal feel of a community.
This is a community bucket list; when read in it’s entirety at any one time, it reveals the hopes and dreams of a neighborhood. It’s authored by strangers, but still these people, due to their proximity to the wall, are related to each other in some way and could impact each other’s lives (directly or indirectly).
As the wall or walls (now replicated a thousand-fold) get more popular, the community attributed to any one of these walls gets even larger. San Antonio had one of these walls, and as word spread about it, people from beyond the borders of its neighborhood would come to write their revelations. It was San Antonio’s bucket list.
In her TED talk (linked below), Chang explains the impact the initial wall had on her community and the people that lived in it. And, I assume, that this simple idea has changed her life as well.
It is such a simple idea, but it wasn’t an easy idea. A process lead to it. It required a process to design it, and a process to birth it. Is it a beautifully designed wall? I don’t think so. It’s not great design, but it is a great idea.
Before I die I want to…
…have a simple idea that is as easy to execute, replicate and impacts lives as much as this idea has.