|Katherine Frey/The Washington Post
Washington, DC is my home and I love it, but it is not a particularly creative city. The nation’s capital has many beautiful monuments and museums but as a city it doesn’t go out of it’s way to nurture artistic talent even though people who live here and visit here crave public art.
Instead, government is the business of this city and one would sometimes think that the only people who work here are faceless bureaucrats, politicians, and lobbyists who blab on television and telephones or stare at computers screens all day with nothing else on their minds except power, money, and votes. But underneath all of that rhetoric, beats the heart of a real live community of people who fall in love, develop friendships, raise families, and have dreams, goals and aspirations that they want to realize sometime during their lives.
Proof that people will respond if something different is offered to them came yesterday on the front page of The Washington Post. In a wonderful story written by Maura Judkis, the private wishes of the citizens of Washington, DC became public art. A blank billboard-sized chalkboard hanging in front of a construction site near Logan Circle was the starting point. Only three simple words are displayed at the top: “Before I die…”
Almost immediately people starting picking up the colored pieces of chalk left in a basket and started writing and revealing what is important to them. Some of the comments included: “Say thank-you everyday.” “Inspire people” and “Make people feel loved.” Artist Candy Chang, a 2011 TED fellow, conceived of the idea and first brought it to New Orleans. Just as it did for the people of New Orleans, the chalk board gave people a reason to stop and think about what they want to do for themselves, their families, their neighborhoods and with their precious lives.
Here’s the link to the Washington Post story so you can check it for yourself: