Newport, Vt., now shares something in common with more than 65 countries around the world. Sydney Stevens, who serves on the board of directors as well as on the gallery committee at the MAC Center for the Arts, heard about a project called “Before I Die
” and wanted to bring the exhibit to the Newport community. The exhibit has been recreated in some 425 locations, and in more than 30 languages, worldwide.
"Before I Die"’s website describes the project as “an interactive art project that invites people to share their personal aspirations in a public space.” Artist Candy Chang created the project with the first board in a neighborhood in New Orleans. At a gallery committee meeting, Stevens told the story of “Before I Die” and impressed her committee members – more than 50 local artists, writers and musicians — that the project should come to MAC.
All members of the art center worked together to pull this off. Not long after the meeting, six blackboards were purchased for the downstairs gallery. The committee members primed and covered them with chalk paint, and then stenciled them with 22 iterations of the following words in white: “Before I die I want to_____.”
The opening reception for the exhibit was on April 11, and the boards will stay up until June 21. So far, Vermonters from all over have come to write on the boards.
When all the lines of each board are filled, a MAC staffer takes a photo of it, laminates the photo, and erases the board so more people can write on it.
Gallery committee member Bonnie Nash explained that the photographs will “capture and save the history of the exhibit” so that the statements can continue on after the boards are removed. She added that she'd like to find a home for them in Newport.
So what’s on the boards? Some people took a humorous approach, while others wrote bucket-list aspirations. One person wrote: “Before I die I want to meet a reasonable Republican.” Another individual reflected: “Before I die I want to know my kids and grandchildren are well cared for and can care for themselves. I want a horse for me!”
Anyone can participate, so consider taking a trip to MAC, pick up a piece of chalk and join the Newport community by writing what you would like to do while you're still alive to do it.