A mural in a skyway at downtown St. Paul’s Alliance Bank Center is encouraging all kinds of personal and profound reactions.
The mural, which spans a 36-foot-long construction barricade, has been designed to appear like an oversized chalkboard. Over and over, it contains the line, “Before I die I want to…” with space for 168 people to fill in the blanks.
Shawn Wiski, the property manager for the building, had seen a headline about New Orleans-based artist Candy Chang’s
original project. It had to do with how the words, “Before I die I want to….” changed her life, she says.
Chang came up with the project after losing a close friend who’d been a mother figure to her. “She started reflecting on the rest of her life and what she wanted to do,” she says.
The artist took that line of thought and she wound up stenciling it on the exterior of a vacant, boarded-up house in New Orleans. “The response was phenomenal, so it’s been duplicated,” in cities all over the globe, she says.
Wiski thought about the skyway, where the “huge white construction wall calls out for something to be decorating it. It was an opportunity for something to go there that benefits others.”
St. Paul's "Before I die" mural
is in an ideal spot, with plenty of pedestrian traffic. “It’s gone over far better than I could have expected. It’s had an overwhelming response,” Wiski says.
Within several hours of the mural’s unveiling in the skyway on July 8, the slots had been completely filled out. Since then, the answers have been erased and already it’s chock-full of answers once again. “It’s been cool to watch the people gather by it, read it, take pictures and write on it,” she says.
The mural will be up for a total of six weeks, as was another art project that came before it. “I just hope it’s an inspiration to all, that it helps everyone reflect on their life and the importance of what they can contribute,” she says.
The mural also offers a community-building exercise. “It teaches us about our fellow businessperson, resident, visitor, and more,” she says.
Many of the responses defy stereotypes, she says. People are “divulging a little bit of their inner self. So it’s personal.”
Source: Shawn Wiski, property manager, Alliance Bank Center
Writer: Anna Pratt