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Before I Die…

Candy Chang’s Presentation on how a simple sticker or a simple chalkboard can be used to break the barriers of individualism and inspire a community.
Candy Chang’s Presentation on how a simple sticker or a simple chalkboard can be used to break the barriers of individualism and inspire a community.

Candy Chang, a fellow TED talker and urban planner, came to Juniata to speak on her creative community togetherness projects. These projects include the Before I Die Wall, I Want This To Be Stickers, and How Much Do You Pay For Rent Post It notes. All these projects are to inspire self-reflection and community communication.

Transforming Our Cities Through Art and Design
Transforming Our Cities Through Art and Design

Since the semester began, I have been having an identity crisis concerning my POE. Candy Chang gave me some of the best advice without knowing it. She opened her talk with a quote by Joseph Campbell reading, “The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are”. Candy stated that ever since she was a child she always wanted to be an artist, however the word artist to any parent is quite a frightening because it says “unstable” and brings to mind the picture of a starving artist. She started out college as a pre-med student and upon receiving a D+ in a course, she decided to take a different route – architecture and graphic design.

Candy’s advice was that you have to dabble in a lot of things, and go down many different paths, because the different experiences that you have teach you who you are on a different level. She uses her own journey as a way to illustrate that you have to do what interests you. However, the hardest things about doing what interests us is discovering and analyzing our pasts, presents, and futures and reflecting upon who we are what we really want out of this life.

Juniata College's Before I Die Wall
Juniata College’s Before I Die Wall

The Before I Die wall, is a way of sharing ourselves without community and breaking down that individualistic wall. It is a place where we can reflex upon our lives and figure out just what we want to do with it. The glory of a liberal arts degree is that it gives you the opportunity to explore many different disciplines to find out exactly what you want to do. I personally wish I would have come to Juniata without a degree in mind, because then it would have given me the opportunity to explore a lot more things than the POE my mind was already glued to.

Candy’s mission is to bring back the 1950’s era of community, where neighbors knew each other, trusted each other, and passed a little bit wisdom onto one another. Today we are so focused on our individual lives that there is a barrier there between ourselves and the people who live just next door. Candy’s public space programs are based around change. She calls these chalk boards, and stickers a honest mess, because they represent barriers falling down between us as we open up and be vulnerable, allowing ourselves to show our humanity.

Candy loves reading what members of the community write, not only on the Before I Die Wall, but also on projects such as ‘I want this to be’. ‘I want this to be’ are stickers posted on the side of abandoned buildings where people anonymously state their hopes, dreams, and ambitions, for a public space. She reads answers from “I want this to be a grocery store”, “book shop café”, “an apartment building” have appeared and it has inspired real change in communities. However, more importantly Candy says that this self-reflection done by individuals has led to more community involvement, and communication.

Candy’s final message was that curiosity and keeping an open mind allows us to do more things, and do them better than anyone else because we are inspired. She wants to share that inspiration with the community and bring neighbors together like they once were in the 1950s.