© Guardian photo by Thomas Becker
Alanna Jankov, from left, Hannah Bell and Rachel Peters, produced the “Before I die…” project where the public is invited to finish the sentence on a chalkboard set up outside The Guild in Charlottetown.
Art is in the eye of the beholder.
This is especially the case with a new piece of art that’s been on display since Sept. 27 attached to the side of The Guild on Queen Street in Charlottetown.
It’s called “Before I die…”
Simplistic on the outside, but deep on the inside, this giant chalkboard with the phrase, “Before I die I want to _______” stenciled over it several times in rows and columns, has caught the attention of people worldwide.
It’s art of the mind — anyone walking by can pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives and share their personal hopes and dreams in a public space.
“I’d say it’s a global public art project that invites people to reflect on their lives and share with people of the community,” said Guild executive director Alanna Jankov.
The idea originated in New Orleans in 2011 by Candy Chang, an artist with a background in design and urban planning. Shortly after the loss of a loved one, Chang needed clarification and perspective in her own life. She also wondered if others felt the same way.
With the help of friends, she painted the side of an abandoned house in her neighbourhood with chalkboard paint and stenciled it with a grid of the sentence “Before I die I want to _______.”
The project has since spread worldwide. There are 350 of these boards across the world, in 50 different countries, in 30 different languages. But only one in Atlantic Canada.
During a casual meeting at a local café in Iceland, Guild chairwoman Hannah Bell and Rachel Peters shared ideas and visions for a better P.E.I. Peters heard about the project on Ted Talks, and asked why the same couldn’t be done on P.E.I.
"You see people sharing things that maybe they wouldn’t tell somebody else. People actually share some quite profound stuff." Hannah Bell
“I just wanted P.E.I. to have some more positivity and for people to start thinking about their lives and start having some dreams,” Peters said.
Bell acted immediately and got permission from the city for the project’s go-ahead, a portion of which was funded through Culture P.E.I. After three months, the vision became reality.
For Bell, it’s a way for people to share their stories with others.
“I love stories. You come along and you get to share somebody else’s story. You see people sharing things that maybe they wouldn’t tell somebody else. People actually share some quite profound stuff.”
The simple concept of a board and chalk has Islanders buzzing and it
has the women excited about it.
“People are talking about it. On Friday when we had it installed, it was just wall-to-wall of people, lined up to take a turn. As people come across the crosswalk, there’s not a single person so far that I’ve talked to that has not stopped to read it or picked up a piece of chalk,” Jankov said.
At the end of the day, these three women have one hope, that they can make a difference one piece of chalk at a time.
“I think everybody needs to take a minute in their day to think. We don’t give ourselves enough time,” Bell said.