Kalein Hospice Centre volunteers

Before I Die chalkboard an instant hit in Nelson

Kalein Hospice Centre coordinated and funded the project in partnership with the Kootenay Co-op grocery store

It’s been a week since the  “Before I Die…” interactive mural was painted on the side of the old Extra Foods building, and organizers of the project can hardly believe how popular it’s been.

Amy Garvey — a board member for Kalein Hospice Centre, the organization that coordinated and funded the project — said people were writing on the wall the moment they finished painting it.

“We went around the corner to put our supplies away and when we came back people were already there filling in the blanks,” Garvey said.

The mural is essentially a giant chalkboard with a repeating stencil of the statement “Before I die I want to ____.” Chalk is provided for passersby to write their answer. The idea is to encourage people to reflect on what’s important to them.

Hospice volunteers wash down the board periodically, as it gets too full to write on, so others can add their messages. They’ve cleared it once already.

This week the wall included messages from people who wanted to “see sexism + racism end” and “learn how to sail a boat,” as well as “stop Harper” and “get a PhD.”

Garvey said the mural has become something of an affirmation board, where people anonymously can put their intentions out to the world.

“I think there’s something powerful about being able to express your hopes and desires in a public space and what that does to inspire you to achieve those goals,” Garvey said.

Support from the Kootenay Co-op, which own the old Extra Foods building and property, made the project possible, Garvey noted.

Initially the group planned to build a freestanding board at the edge of the property facing Baker Street. However, the city would have required a building permit and it turned out to be simpler and more cost effective just to use the side of the existing building.

The mural will remain in place at least until the end of the summer, at which time it may be painted over.

Similar “Before I Die…” chalkboards exist around the world as part of a movement started by New Orleans artist Candy Change. She created the first one on the side of an abandoned house in her neighbourhood in 2011 and has since developed a toolkit, at the website beforeidie.cc, for other communities to follow suit.

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