Before I die I want to...

Creston Arts inspires community with latest art installation

Published: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 1:35 p.m. CST • Updated: Tuesday, July 15, 2014 1:59 p.m. CST
Joe "J.D." Gaiser, front, and Joe Beaman install Creston Arts most recent project titled Saturday on the east side of the former Huff Bakery in Creston.

What’s important to you?

Around the globe, people are answering that question on public installations in a project titled “Before I Die.”

With the approval of Jan and Karl Knock of Iowa State Savings Bank and the in-kind support of Joe Anson of Anson Construction, Barb Coenen of Maple Street Memories and Creston Arts volunteers, a “Before I Die” wall has been installed on the side of former Huff Bakery, 401 W. Adams St., owned by Iowa State Savings Bank.

Since it was installed Saturday, Crestonians have shared their personal aspirations of what they hope to accomplish in their lifetime.

In Creston

After discussing public mural projects with the Creston Arts council, CNA staff reporter and Creston Arts volunteer Sarah Brown proposed the idea of a “Before I Die” wall in Creston, which she first stumbled upon in San Diego, Calif. Bailey Fry-Schnormeier said she loved the idea, too, after discovering the installation in Iowa City.

Creston Arts volunteer Brian Zachary offered a 12-foot chalk board for the project that was rescued from former Franklin School in Creston.

“As we discussed it, the arts council really wanted this to not be about us, but a community project (instead),” Brown said.

From there, the arts council looked for a location and people who could help bring the project to life.

“I was really happy when I first heard about this project,” said Karl Knock, CEO of Iowa State Savings Bank. “The ‘Before I Die’ project stimulates positive day dreaming and provides opportunity for expression to individuals who take part in it ... and to think about their own life plan or bucket list.”

Jan Knock said she loved that the “Before I Die” wall would be installed in Creston.

“We are experiencing renewed vitality uptown and this is just one more reason for people to visit,” Jan said.

Karl said the expressed ambitions of those who write on the board may inspire others or increase awareness of our shared humanity.

“(There is) so little time we have to accomplish or experience life on our rich planet,” Karl said.


“Before I Die” was created by New Orleans-based artist Candy Chang after the loss of a loved one. After grappling with a long period of grieving and depression, she eventually found peace and gratitude for the short time they had together.

As Chang struggled to maintain a positive perspective, she wanted two things: a daily reminder and to know what is important to those around her. With this, she painted the side of an abandoned house with the open phrase “Before I die I want to __________.” On her website, Chang said it’s a place where people can pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives and share their personal aspirations in a public space.

Since the original wall was created in 2011 in New Orleans, more than 500 “Before I Die” walls have been created in more than 60 countries and 25 languages.

Creston Arts will officially unveil the mural Tuesday night after Type Rider II: Tandem Poetry Tour open mic event 5 p.m. Tuesday at Adams Street Espresso.

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