Eye Spy: Chalkboard Walls Acting as Windows Into the Soul of a Community

Hi F&F,

While running a few errands in Downtown Brooklyn, I spied a public art project. The project is a recreation of award-winning artist, Candy Chang’s – “Before I die I want to _____” project (BID).  In March, 2011, the TED Fellow recipient put a chalkboard on the side of a decaying house in New Orleans. Neighbors were encouraged to fill in the blank of the phrase and write it on the chalkboard wall. The aim was to turn a “neglected space into a constructive one” and to help improve the neighborhood and the personal well-being of her neighbors. Click here to visit her website and read about her work.

I think this is an excellent example of public art at its best.  It’s site/community specific, it’s interactive and engages the people using the space and it reacts to the environment/elements. The Brooklyn wall is located at the Fulton Mall; a rather humble shopping district, popular with the Black and Hispanic residents in the area. In this instance the walls aren’t surrounding an example of urban decay, but rather an example of urban redevelopment. The walls surround a construction site, one of the many construction sites in this part of Brooklyn. Despite the worrisome economy, this area is experiencing an upturn that holds a promise of improved circumstances for the entire community.  I pray that the promise manifests its self in the lives of all the members of the community; longtime residents and the newly transplanted.

Reading the wall was like taking the pulse of my neighborhood.  It was interesting to see how people handled the statement. The declarations on the walls were poetic, prosaic, and profane. Some people shared their grand dreams and others expressed dreams that I think middle America or the Middle Class would view as modest; because in their world these things are “a given” – Before I die I want to… “see my daughter go to college”;“own my own home”; “see justice for all”.

Of course I tagged the wall, but I’ll be keeping those dreams to myself; for fear, if spoken out loud – the dreams won’t materialize; just like I’m secretive about the wishes sent aloft when I blow out the candles on my birthday cake; my wishes written on the wall were sent upward when I blew the chalk dust from my fingertips.



About atreegrowsinbklyn

I’m an analog girl living in a digital world. I’m happy except when I’m sad. I’m serious, smart and sophisticated except when I’m silly, obtuse and crude. I’m ambitious and disciplined; except when I’m apathetic and self indulgent. I‘m thoughtful, generous and honest; except when I’m insensitive, cheap and lying. I’m grateful; I’m grateful; I am grateful.
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23 Responses to Eye Spy: Chalkboard Walls Acting as Windows Into the Soul of a Community

  1. Northern Narratives says:

    Wonderful public art!

    • I agee. The public has thoroughly engaged with this art. I went past the site yesterday and it looked as if every inch was covered; yet people were still finding tiny spaces to add their thoughts.

  2. I love this project. My son spent the last two summers working in Brooklyn in Graphic Design. Thanks for stopping in at Brain Caviar!

    • Hi Claudia,

      I’m glad I have this blog to share what’s going on in my little world.

      It always amazes me when something I post reveals a connection to a virtual stranger. Brooklyn is a very special place. I hope your son enjoyed his work time and playtime while here.

      Adrienne (ATreeGrowsinBklyn)

  3. thirdhandart says:

    What a great art project!

  4. I just started to think about my list! very nice!

  5. Touch2Touch says:

    That makes sense to me — don’t dissipate the dream except with the intentionality of blowing the chalk dust to — wherever it’s good to go!
    May it come true.

  6. What a fantastic project to bring art and community together.

    • Hi Petalpusher

      Absolutely!!! I could see this project being useful in schools so teachers can reconnect with their kids; in social service agencies where worker burnout leads to apathy and the dehumanization of the clients they serve; in the workplace to breakdown the silos to improve collaboration and has a tool to prompt Interfaith communication. The possibilities are limitless.


  7. Patti Kuche says:

    What a wonderful wall! The hopes and dreams of so many sitting upon it like open windows to the soul. Best wishes to you for dreams!

  8. eof737 says:

    Terrific concept form my old neighborhood. I love Brooklyn and the creativity that always floats out to everyone else from there. 😉
    I’m working on catching up again after a hectic workshop week again. 🙂

  9. The great wall of Brooklyn. I like it 🙂

  10. Ahhhhh Cities!!! I grew up in Boston and think there is no better education than what cities can teach! This project is a perfect representation of that! Thanks for sharing it…I’m off to read about the one in New Orleans now, as well!

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