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Friday October 31st 2014

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Before I Die…

By Sarah McCartan

“Before I Die I Want To:____________.”

In 2011, after losing someone she loved, artist Candy Chang brought this phrase to life on the exterior wall of an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood. In just a few years time, this simple phrase has quickly spread across the globe in the form of more than 425 “Before I Die…” walls in over 65 countries and 30 languages.

It’s a phenomenon that is even taking over coffee tables, thanks to a newly released hardcover book. The book, “Before I Die,” celebrates not only the walls from around the world, but the stories behind them.

At the top of each chalkboard wall reads “Before I Die” with individual lines designated for people to mark their own personal responses, completing the sentence, “Before I Die I want to_______,” just as Chang had originally done.

If you haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit and contribute to this global art project, now you’ll have your chance as Pensacola’s first “Before I Die…” wall has been erected at First City Art Center.

“One of our board members saw the wall in New Orleans and met the artist who started it, Candy Chang. She explained that she wants people to use the idea elsewhere. It was proposed it to our board and agreed it would be an awesome idea,” said First City Art Center Executive Director Meredith Doyen. “I am excited to bring the first one to Pensacola.”

Thanks to the help of volunteers, the wall, 40 ft. long and 8 feet tall, is built, set and ready to be used during the upcoming Valentine’s Edition of First City Art Center’s signature event, “Hot Glass, Cold Brew” taking place Friday, Feb. 7.

Keeping it organic in nature, during the event, while enjoying live art demonstrations, sipping on cold brews and taking in the evening’s festivities, individuals will be invited to write on the wall at their discretion.

“We are going to just have people milling around and writing as they are comfortable,” said Doyen.

Although “Hot Glass, Cold Brew” will be the official introduction of the wall, the hope is that it remains a permanent fixture in a prominent location on campus for all visitors to enjoy.

“We hope to move it to an outside wall if all goes well it,” said Doyen. “It will depend on level of interest, but our feeling is that it needs to be as public as possible for the long run.”

As is the case with the other walls, the chalk is provided. All that’s needed are individuals eager to share.

In addition to the large-scale wall installation at the art center, Doyen notes that this remains a project in motion, and the community may soon get to see a portable version popping up at events, such as Downtown Pensacola’s Gallery Night.

Turning Wanting Into Doing
Although it’s one thing to share what you want to do on the “Before I Die…” wall, it’s another thing to turn this want into the act of doing, which is exactly what Pensacola native and current New Orleans resident Carol Piatt did.

Piatt had long had her sights set on La Tomatina, the world’s biggest food fight in Spain. What could be more fun than thousands of Europeans throwing tomatoes at each other, after all? During her inaugural visit to the “Before I Die…” wall in her city soon after its 2011 inception, Piatt decided to make this dream public.

Piatt made her way over to the wall that Candy had resurrected on the side of the abandoned building in the Marigny, which happened to be the neighborhood Piatt worked in, and grabbed a piece of chalk.

“The first thing I wrote on the wall was of course, TOMATINA!,” explained Piatt.  “I wrote it in all caps and in the brightest yellow chalk I could find. I don’t know why, but something about writing it out and leaving it on a wall for others to see — in the neighborhood I worked in — made me so much more passionate about actually making it to the festival than I had ever been before.”

Piatt set a date on her calendar, saved as much money as she could, and last August set out to the tiny town of Brunol for La Tomatina.

“I was almost crushed to death while I was being pick-pocketed, and had to sit on a four-hour bus ride back to Barcelona with 50 other people who were covered in rotten tomato juice. You can imagine the smell. So, it wasn’t exactly what I had imagined or hoped for, but what was important was that I actually did it. I crossed an item off my bucket list, and it was an amazing once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget,” said Piatt.

For Piatt, and many others who have used the wall to share everything from more lighthearted dreams, to personal aspirations and even deepest desires, the wall offers a unique way to share the things that matter most to us, and then step back and acknowledge them.

“Sometimes we get so caught up with everyday life that we lose sight of things we really want to do and accomplish in life. The installation is such a great way to stop people in the neighborhood and remind them of what is really important to them,” said Piatt.

To learn more about the “Before I Die…” Project, visit beforeidie.cc

“Before I Die…” at Hot Glass, Cold Brew
WHEN: 5 – 9 p.m., Friday Feb. 7
WHERE: First City Art Center 1060 N. Guillemard St.
COST: Entrance fees to Hot Glass, Cold Brew ($20 for members, $25 for non-members)
DETAILS: firstcityart.org/events

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One More Reason To Attend
By Jennifer Leigh

First City Arts Center will not only be doling out the community art and local brews at the “Hot Glass, Cold Brew,” event Friday, Feb. 7, they will also be collecting wipes and diapers to support the Gulf Coast Kid’s House, a children’s advocacy center serving Escambia County. The non-profit organization serves victims of abuse by combining all of the professionals needed for the intervention, investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases under one roof.

“We are a local not-for-profit serving local children — children which are the future of our community,” said Executive Director, Stacey Kostevicki

Many clients served at the Gulf Coast Kid’s House have a financial need, explained Executive Director Stacey Kostevicki. Donating basic necessities such as diapers and wipes, clothes and snacks help cut costs for families.

“A very common scenario is that the alleged perpetrator of the crimes against children is also the primary financial provider for the family,” Kostevicki said. “As we engage with the families and work with their protective caregiver to ensure the child’s safety, we also must be mindful of their needs. Diapers are a huge expense, and providing diapers is one way that we are able to make this journey just a little easier.”

A majority of the Gulf Coast Kid’s House funding comes directly from the local community. Donation drives, such as the upcoming diaper drive, help the organization to better serve the children and the community.

“We are so grateful to community partners such as the First City Arts Center for the work they do to support GCKH and the children we serve,” Kostevicki said. “We are just entering into our tenth year as an agency and we could not do it without the generosity of this community.”