BEFORE I DIE Project to Take Residence in Long Beach’s East Village Thursday


Photos courtesy of Before I Die…

The city will very soon have a brand new mural to speak of that residents, visitors and art lovers alike can not only gaze at in contemplation, but to which they can add a little piece of themselves as well. 

Thanks to a partnership between the Arts Council for Long Beach and the Downtown Long Beach Associates (DLBA), artist Candy Chang’s Before I Die project will take residence in the East Village Arts District starting Thursday, October 8.

The story behind Before I Die began with one woman’s need to resolve her deep depression brought on by the loss of a loved one. So Chang created an interactive wall on the side of an abandoned house in her New Orleans neighborhood, painted it with the prompt, “Before I die I want to ____,” and simply waited. The next day the wall had been filled with responses. What began as an experiment became a movement toward stimulating more and much-needed community interaction worldwide.

Earlier this year, the DLBA partnered with the Arts Council to create two $1,000 grants in support of the arts. Enter Long Beach artist and arts advocate John Thatcher Montgomery, Jr. who applied to bring the project, a traveling art piece that has allowed participants in 73 different countries to express their hopes and dreams, to Long Beach.

“I think part of the power of the project is seeing this bold statement ‘Before I Die…’ from far away and coming up close to see this diverse and uplifting conversation about the hopes and dreams of people from our own community,” Montgomery told the Post. “Locals familiar with [the] project from other places are excited and I imagined others will be inspired once they encounter it.”


The art project was originally slated for the West wall of the ArtExchange building, but was proposed for the southern side after POW! WOW! founder Jasper Wong’s mural displaced that plan. Montgomery’s intention with the south-facing wall is to activate the area “with this powerful, simple and elegant platform and draw attention to future changes that will soon take place in the area.”

“Further, from the perspective of my own art practice, I intend to use the wall as a tool to contextualize a conversation about non-commercial, attribution concepts and works,” Montgomery said. 

According to the Arts Council, the DLBA’s Placemaking call for grants received far too many submissions for them to fund. At the time, the Arts Council was soliciting the Long Beach community for additional microgrant funding so the DLBA pitched the idea for a partnership to make two additional proposals into a reality.

“We jumped at it and proactively contacted all of the art-related submissions with a budget that fit within our microgrant guidelines, inviting them to apply,” said April Economides, marketing and communications director for the Arts Council. “John was one of the respondents. The Before I Die public art installation will bring very cool attention to the Arts District and the SW corner of 3rd and Elm where the ArtExchange is located and encourage passersby to interact with the piece.”

The wall is expected to be unveiled at the DLBA’s Live After 5: Nightmare Before Christmas on Elm Street event on Thursday, October 8.

For more information about the Before I Die project, click here.

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Asia Morris has been with the Long Beach Post for five years, specializing in coverage of the arts. Her parents gave her the name because they wanted her to be a world traveler and they got their wish. She has obliged by pursuing art, journalism and a second career as a competitive cyclist.