“Before I die…” art wall inspires Davis locals

KRISTINA KASSEM / BEFORE I DIE GLOBAL PROJECT

Yolo Hospice, City of Davis collaborate on art wall

In a time when the world may seem divided by politics and discrimination, art can be the answer to lessen this chaos. The City of Davis and Yolo Hospice are working together to bring the “Before I die…” art wall to downtown Davis. People of diverse cultures can come together through creative expression such as this project.

The art project will showcase a six-foot wall by the side of the Regal Cinemas Davis 6 theater. The “Before I Die…” piece will be on the south-facing wall on First Street, between E and F streets.

This project is designed such that people come up to the wall and fill in the blanks with their thoughts about what they want to do before they die. Candy Chang is the artist who started this piece — which has slowly become a global project.

Louise Joyce, a community relations manager for Yolo Hospice, described how meaningful the project was for Chang and those at Yolo Hospice.

“It started for Candy Chang because she lost a loved one — a beloved woman who was very close to her — and lost her very suddenly, and she was very devastated,” Joyce said. “She’s always utilizing positive spaces to bring us together just as humans to build that bridge. She had the same experience then that we are having here.”

Yolo Hospice is a nonprofit organization specializing in serving patients, loved ones, and community members who are affected by terminal illnesses. This is a unique form of health care which emphasizes the quality of life.

“Here at Yolo Hospice, we are about serving you in the chapter of your life when you have diseases that are terminally ill and you have, for example, six months to live. We provide comfort, care and pain managements. We also surround you with social workers and volunteers,” Joyce said. “That’s the service we provide, but we are also very passionate about people having conversations about death and dying. They will be able to ease their suffering this way when they reach that chapter in life.”

As taboo as the topic of death may sound, Yolo Hospice and the City of Davis are trying to encourage people to bring death into conversations via this art project’s new lens,

“It’s just a beautiful and synchronous event to work with Rachel Hartsough to collaborate with the city, and that it was also on their radar,” Joyce said. “We love to use the arts in conversations about death and dying, and we want people to be mindful about death and dying. It is a conscious, crazy and beautiful art project for people to really contemplate about their life.”

“Before I die…” may be only one wall in Davis, but this one wall is contributing to a worldwide effort to bridge the gaps of humankind. Rachel Hartsough, the arts and culture manager for the City of Davis, noted the extent of the project’s reach.

“I think it is a very important time for people to connect to each other in our city and in our country and globally,” Hartsough said. “Some people can connect better by talking, [and] some people can connect by hearing; this is a way for people to share and participate. Maybe somebody is already there who is a native Spanish or Mandarin speaker, and when they’re both standing there, they can connect in a way they may have not.”

The art wall is meant to bring people together in a place where no one really expects it. The artist working on the project, Kyle Monhollen, views art as a chance for change of perspective.

“For me, art means taking a chance to see things in a new way,” Monhollen said. “My favorite art usually comes from a place where the everyday and expected or comfortable meets its opposite — like the surprisingly deep question at the heart of ‘Before I Die…’ plainly stated and six feet tall around the corner where you least expect it. The results can be harmonious and balanced or wild and chaotic, but there is something new and exciting in that place where they meet every time.”

The wall was fully installed on Sunday, Sept. 17, and people are already involved with the project.

“Our people were totally engaged in this,” Joyce said. “It’s just an incredible project and people are really responding to the questions. Candy Chang says that talking about death is one of the most powerful conversations you can have because it clarifies your life.”

While death may seem like a morbid topic, “Before I die…” will bring positivity and purpose to people’s minds when they think about what they truly want to accomplish in their lives.

“I am inspired by the direct and positive nature of the project,” Monhollen said. “It’s visually and conceptually very simple, but it addresses one of the essential human questions: What does it mean to be alive? I like that it invites both deep thinking and playful interaction [and] that it is broadly accessible but also potentially very intimate.”

The project will bring to the table a number of elements about what it truly means to live. Four languages were also implemented to challenge a diverse group of people.

People will be urged to come and participate, especially native speakers who can monitor the languages. Those who are fluent in English, Arabic, Mandarin or Spanish and would like to help monitor the wall can contact Louise Joyce at ljoyce@yolohospice.org or call 530-758-5566 for more information. There will also be a sign-up opportunity and a dedication ceremony on Oct. 13th at 5:30 p.m. for anyone interested in participating.

 

Written by: Stella Tran — city@theaggie.org