An example of a ‘Before I Die’ wall in Nelson, BC. A group is proposing a similar project in Cranbrook and has contacted city council requesting space for such a wall.

An example of a ‘Before I Die’ wall in Nelson, BC. A group is proposing a similar project in Cranbrook and has contacted city council requesting space for such a wall.

Council debates community messaging wall

Proposed art project will allow people to write tributes to life.

City council grappled with a request to approve construction of a wall in Rotary Park that would allow people to write messages of what they would like to do before they die.

Proposed by Ana Yost representing REALM (Realize Empowerment Access Life to the Maximum), council expressed reservations about the project, particularly with concerns about graffiti.

Most made the request in a letter to city council, which was debated during a meeting on Monday night.

“We would like to place the wall in a high traffic area, with Rotary Park being our first choice or the clock tower area as our second choice,” Yost wrote. “We are currently exploring options at these locations to allow us to secure the wall to the ground/structure. We are not requesting funds, only permission in placing it in a public park or area.”

The project, titled ‘Before I Die’ features a wall — usually a chalkboard — where people can write statements that examine common anxieties, contemplate mortality, and better understand what it means to be human.

The first wall was created in New Orleans by artist Candy Chang who created the first wall after the death of a loved one as a tribute to living an examined life.

While the idea of a wall isn’t that controversial, Mayor Lee Pratt expressed reservations during the council debate on what type of comments or vandalism could be written — especially in a high traffic and public space such as Rotary Park.

“I think it’s an invitation for graffiti and the kids in the park, I can almost envision what’s going to be put on it and I don’t want kids subject to that,” Pratt said. “They claim they will police that, but are they going to be there 24/7? I don’t think so.

“As far as spirit square goes, I don’t think it really fits into what Spirit Square was presented for or built for.”

While the rest of council, including Pratt, weren’t dismissive of the idea, there was an appetite for more information as they directed staff to do some more research.

“There are many communities across North America where it is very popular,” said Coun. Ron Popoff. “Vandalism is something that they all deal with and if they can police that, then it seems to be popular, then lets give it a shot.

All councillors were mindful of location as well.

“You put this up at the skate park, yeah, you’re going to get a bunch of graffiti on it,” said Coun. Isaac Hockley, “but I think I signed the one in Kimberley and I don’t remember seeing a bunch of graffiti on it, so I really think it just depends on location.”

According to Yost, the group will monitor the wall daily for any graffiti or obscenities, replenish chalk, and clean it when full or after rainfall. The group is also hoping to make it mobile so that it can be transported to other community events in the future, with plans to unveil a final project in August 2017.

While Pratt initially expressed concerns about the proposal, he also wanted to get some more information.

“There are a couple things I’m very concerned about,” he said. “…I don’t know if Kimberley’s had a lot of problems with theirs or other towns, but I think it would be our due diligence to investigate that so we know what we’re getting into.”