'Before I Die': Art project draws out life's yearnings from public

'Before I Die': Art project draws out life's yearnings from public

SALEM, Ore. - The same words, chalked up 114 times, followed by everything from a life's ultimate goals to a life's greatest ambition.

"I want to take my kids to Ireland."

"I should learn to fry an egg."

"A lot of people will come up and they'll just look at it for a long time," said artist Brian Hart. "One of the ones that stuck out with me the most is one that said, 'I wanna be like my father. I miss you pop'"

Hart brought this public art project to Salem in January, the first installation of its kind in Oregon.

"It's exceeded my expectations in every way possible," he said. "I'm sure there have been hundreds of people that signed it by now."

The Before I Die wall started as an experiment by Candy Chang, who lives in New Orleans. Chang painted the wall of an abandoned building with chalkboard paint, stenciled the words "Before I Die" on the wall and left some chalk out.

The next day, the wall was full of messages.

Since then, the walls have popped up all around the world, from Brazil to Australia, Khazakstan to South Africa.

What is it about a piece of chalk and an oversized chalkboard that makes so many people want to share?

"It speaks the truth out loud," said Una Kimo Keo-Goez, professor of rhetoric at Willamette University.

She sees repeating themes, like travel and love.

"As we fear death, ultimately, we want to live for love," she said. "It shows the identity of the town. The things that are important to today's generation of people."

The wall in Salem gets so full it has to be washed off every other day, Hart said.

"I think it gives people a lot of courage to say things they maybe normally wouldn't say out loud," Hart said.