Death is never easy to talk about, but San Luis Obispo’s Before I Die wall makes the conversation a little easier.

Before I Die walls sparked global conversations about life and death through public art exhibitions. These exhibitions invite the public to write on a blank wall in chalk their “before I die,” aspirations. Walls in more than 70 countries were etched with inklings of hope for life by confronting the inevitability of death.

Just Looking Gallery and Wilshire Hospice launched San Luis Obispo’s Before I Die wall Friday night during Art After Dark.

The original Before I Die wall was erected in 2011 on an abandoned house in New Orleans by artist Candy Chang after the death of a loved one. Chang, along with writer James A. Reeves, developed the project to talk about common anxieties, contemplate morality and bring people together to better understand what it means to be human.

Wilshire Hospice volunteer manager Steve Willey said he felt that partnering with the gallery to launch the wall was a natural fit for Wilshire Hospice. He said it creates a mindful way to talk about life and death.

“In the world of hospice, we realize that the best part of the future is right now because this is what we get,” Willey said. “This wall takes our present hopes and present dreams and throws them out there into the universe.”

Messages on the San Luis Obispo wall ranged from “learn to salsa dance” to “attain enlightenment.” The wall was completely filled with entries within two hours of the launching event.
“If you look at the wall, you can see the diversity of peoples desires, of their hopes, of their dreams, of how they feel about their life right now, but also what they think they might want to be doing in the future,” Willey said.

Biochemistry freshman Ashley Calloway wrote that she wants to marry the love of her life before she dies. Calloway said she wrote on the wall because she appreciated the way it could help create action.

“You know the things you want to do,” Calloway said. “Those are thoughts that go through your head every day. But when you actually write it down and speak it into existence, it means so much more to you. You can actually go out and achieve it once you speak it.”

Industrial engineering freshman Leilani Loo wrote that she wants to “discover the keys to happiness.” When she looked at the wall, she discovered that many others want the same thing.

“I think the message is great because it brings together this community that I didn’t have a whole lot of faith in,” Loo said. “I felt like there was a lack of diversity, and I felt that I was different from a lot of people here. But getting to see this, I feel more connected to everyone here.”

The wall will be on display at Just Looking Gallery until May 19. The gallery welcomes the public to erase current entries to make room for their own hopes for the future.

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