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'Before I Die' wall will be unveiled at Tampa's Riverwalk

Leadership Tampa Bay built a Before I Die Wall for this year’s class project. Artist Candy Chang founded the Before I Die initiative in New Orleans, and there are more than 1,000 walls worldwide.

Courtesy of Chris Claytor with the Beck Group

Leadership Tampa Bay built a Before I Die Wall for this year’s class project. Artist Candy Chang founded the Before I Die initiative in New Orleans, and there are more than 1,000 walls worldwide.

TAMPA — Before I die I want to find a cure for cancer.

Before I die I want to speak to a parent I've lost contact with.

Those were just two of the dreams scribbled in chalk that Loran Jarrett read while standing in front of a "Before I Die" wall in New Orleans.

The entire wall was a representation of the neighborhood. People's hopes, goals and aspirations. Their deepest secrets. Their wishes for the kind of life they want to live.

"I've always been a fan of things that help regain faith in humanity because the world can be harsh sometimes," Jarrett said.

The wall allowed the writers a release, to document what they hoped to achieve before death.

Upon returning to Tampa, Jarrett could not get the wall out of her head.

So, as class president of Leadership Tampa Bay 2016, she suggested building a Before I Die wall for this year's class project.

Today, the wall will be unveiled on the Larry Feldman portion of the Riverwalk.

"I went to New Orleans in 2014, which is where the first Before I Die wall came about," Jarrett said. "I went up to it and frankly just being honest, I was thinking people are going to put smart aleck things, but I walked up to it and was so moved. I've told this story so many times but I still can't tell it without getting teary eyed."

Artist Candy Chang is the founder of the initiative. Approval must go through her before a wall is built.

"I walked by this abandoned house in New Orleans every day and wondered how it could be a nicer space for my neighborhood," Chang said. "I was going through a long period of depression and wondered how I could find a little consolation with my neighbors."

Now, there's more than 1,000 walls around the world in 70 countries.

"No way did I think it would catch on like this," Chang said. "I had no idea what to expect. The project grew to what it is today thanks to passionate people around the world who have created walls in their own communities."

Community is what the project is all about.

"I thought, what a great way to interact with the community, and the city had just completed the Riverwalk so it seemed like good timing," said Todd Edwards, membership director of the Tampa Club and a Leadership Tampa Bay class member. "I have a bird's eye view of everything happening and knew about Feldman's project so we immediately set up a meeting and was very well received by Larry, and he granted us permission to use his land."

The purpose of Leadership Tampa Bay is to understand and learn about the region and its community needs.

"To me, you're seeing people, and they are writing what they need, want, what drives them and what's in their soul," Jarrett said. "How could you ask for more information from someone?"

The writing on the wall can delve deep or keep it simple like: "Before I die I want to eat all the candy."

Since it's chalk, nothing is permanent. The writing can be washed away with just one rainy day, so the 40 by 8 foot wall will be constantly changing, just as dreams may.

No matter how long the writing remains, the wall will always act as a voice for the community.

"I'm an introvert, and I started making interactive installations so the quieter people like me could share just as much as the loud ones," Chang said. "It gave me the freedom to be honest and vulnerable in public without any judgment. People's responses helped me more than they will probably ever know."

Before I die I will be a mom.

Before I die I will witness equality for all human beings on earth.

Those are just two of the dreams that will be scribbled in chalk on Tampa's Before I Die wall during the unveiling today at 4:30 p.m.

A cocktail party will follow at the Tampa Club to benefit Academy Prep.

The installation will have a permanent location at the Armature Works beginning in January.

Contact Arielle Waldman at awaldman@tampabay.com.

'Before I Die' wall will be unveiled at Tampa's Riverwalk 08/24/16 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 24, 2016 5:42pm]
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