News From Terre Haute, Indiana

October 14, 2013

'Before I die ...' Festival-goers write their desires on wall

Dianne Frances D. Powell
The Tribune-Star

ROCKVILLE — “Before I die I want to … ”

These were the first few words of a sentence that many passersby completed on the square in Parke County on Sunday.

Six chalkboards printed with those words were installed in front of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Rockville as a space for people to share their hopes.

“Before I die I want to add more beauty to the world,” Rockville resident Allyson Melloh wrote in yellow chalk.

The 23-year-old hairstylist also drew a heart next to her completed sentence.

“I like to make people feel pretty from the inside out,” she said.

And the writing on the wall showed many other people’s hopes for the ones they love:

“Before I die I want to cure mom’s diabetes,” one statement said.

“Before I die I want to see my sister survive cancer,” another stated.

Other dreams are for themselves:

“Before I die I want to be married for 60 years,” one hopeful wrote.

“ to Europe.”  

“...own my own business.”

Some went deeper:

“Before I die I want to serve His purpose,” one said.

Others are lighter:

“Before I die I want to be Batman,” one probably joked.

Profound or light, the activity is meant to promote communication.

“We just want to encourage community conversation in a way that’s non-threatening,” said Memorial Presbyterian Church pastor Wendy Olson.

Olson calls the activity “public art at a public square for conversation.”

She ran across the idea on the Internet.

Created by artist Candy Chang after she lost a loved one, “‘Before I die’ is a global art project that invites people to reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in public space,” according to its website.

“Your life is meaningful,” Olson said. “What do you want to do with it? How will you impact the world?”

Chang started the project in New Orleans, and it spread to more than 40 countries, with walls created in more than 15 languages. In addition to Rockville, Lafayette and Fortville in Indiana also have walls.

Olson said the Covered Bridge Festival is the perfect opportunity for the activity. The boards will remain available throughout the festival, which started on Friday and ends on Oct. 20.

One attendee, Julie St. James of Indianapolis wrote a profound wish.

“Before I die I want to Become a family :-)”

It was not easy to complete the sentence.

“It makes me feel a little vulnerable to put down our desire” in a public setting, she said.

The desire she shares with her husband Eric Bryant, who accompanied her to the event, was to adopt children.

“It feels really positive,” St. James said of writing on the wall.

“It’s really a gratitude graffiti.”

Bryant, who met St. James in 2001 just after the Sept. 11 tragedy in New York, said the activity is a reminder that life is short.

“Live your dreams and make a positive impact,” he said.

Tribune-Star Reporter Dianne Frances D. Powell can be reached at 812-231-4299 or