A wall beckons with two boxes of chalk and a six-word prompt: “Before I die, I want to …”
The spaces below are filled with handwritten ambitions. “Move to Ohio.” “Have pizza with Ed Sheeran.” “Forgive someone.”
The Greensburg Before I Die wall is the work of Hempfield Area High School senior Louden Richason, inspired by many similar projects worldwide.
The 18-year-old said he got the idea while attending a seminar in Pittsburgh and seeing a presentation about the Before I Die walls in other areas.
“I thought it was awesome, and I knew I wanted to come back and do it in my community,” he said.
He painted his wall on the side of the Art-Tech building at Pennsylvania Avenue Park in Greensburg last week, after receiving permission from the city and the building owner.
Artist Candy Chang created the first Before I Die wall in New Orleans in 2011, and hundreds of imitators have borrowed its format.
The concept is simple: A wall is covered in chalkboard paint, with the prompting words stenciled in white letters. Chalk is left nearby for passersby to use.
Richason said his favorite note on the Greensburg wall so far was the second to be written. He wrote the first himself, saying that he wants to travel the world before he dies. As he did, a man in a wheelchair was sitting in the park and watching with his daughter. He asked if he could add his own ambition below Richason’s.
The man’s daughter wrote the words for him. Before he dies, he said, he wants to walk.
The space on the wall has nearly been filled with chalk-scrawled wishes, ranging from the serious to the silly.
“I really like the variety in it,” Richason said. “We have someone writing that they want a cure for cancer, and two spaces below that someone wants to meet Lady Gaga. The question means something different to each person.”
He checks the wall every day, to see the new additions and to erase any profanity or rude drawings he might made. So far this hasn’t been a problem, he said.
Kelly Rowe, who teaches classes on crafting and scrapbooking at Art-Tech, helped Richason create the lettering for the wall.
“I love it. I think it looks awesome. It’s gotten a lot of use, and I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback on it,” she said.
Rowe recalls standing in the park as a group of college students approached the wall, unsure of what to write.
“One girl said, ‘I just want to pass my class,’ and I said, ‘Well, put that down!’” she said.
Richason will erase the wall if it is ever completely filled so others can restart it. He wants to take a photo each time it is filled and post the images alongside the wall, to create a record of everyone’s wishes.
After about three months, the Before I Die wall probably will be removed and repainted in its original color, Richason said.
He has not chosen an end date.
Jacob Tierney is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6646 or [email protected].