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'Before I Die' project reveals Angelenos' wishes on the wall

October 16, 2013|By Jamie Wetherbe | This post has been updated, as indicated below
  • The "Before I Die" installation in West Hollywood.
The "Before I Die" installation in West Hollywood. (Jamie Wetherbe / Los Angeles…)

West Hollywood now has a public place to pledge last wishes, at least until the end of the month.

Owners of the coming nightclub DBA (Doing Business As) have turned the construction site into a community art project, forgoing the typical plywood and posters.

Dubbed "Before I Die," the piece provides passersby on Santa Monica Boulevard with a 10-foot high, 50-foot wide chalkboard and a bucket full of colorful chalk to scrawl their heart's desires on 120 stenciled lines. The installation, which is wiped clean Sundays, will be up until the new venue debuts in early November.

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The piece has made quite a splash since it went up late one September night. Within 12 hours the wall had filled up with anonymous wishes, big and small, with some drivers even hopping out of their cars to leave their mark in and outside the lines.

Pledges range from intimate dedications ("marry Katy") to offbeat ("eat some dope cheese"), while others seem tied to Los Angeles ("direct a feature").

Nila Nicholas, a New Jersey resident in town for work, recently signed the wall with a serious note to one day have children. "It's a topic of discussion as of late," said the 35-year-old, adding that she's in a new relationship. "And if you write it out, it's more likely to come to fruition."

Bo Burroughs, Chief Marketing Officer of Cardiff Giant, the hospitality group behind DBA, had seen other "Before I Die" projects, which have popped up in 50 countries during the past two years, and had been waiting to create his own installation for professional -- and personal -- reasons.

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"When I saw [the other walls] it made me think of how important to get these things done," Burroughs said. He contacted those behind "Before I Die," which artist Candy Chang launched in 2011, to buy a kit to create his own wall to front DBA. 

"We really wanted to start a conversation of what's going to be happening inside the building," he said.

DBA aims to put an artistic spin on night life. The 6,000-square-foot club, formerly Voyeur, will host a rotating roster of curators, including filmmakers and  performance artists.

Guest artists will take over DBA for roughly three months, overseeing such things as the cocktail list, the decor, servers' wardrobe and the storefront. The bars, stages and tables will be designed and situated to suit the curator's taste.

The first curator, who has yet to be named, also will have the option to incorporate the wall, Burroughs said.

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Still, for Burroughs the wall is more than an art piece -- it's also a tribute to a friend who died last year.

"I knew everything he wished for himself, all the dreams he had, the plans he was making, the love that he wanted and the family that he wanted to build," Burroughs said. "I got to see the end of his story and got to know all the things that never came to pass."

Like Nicholas, Burroughs said he sees the wall as a public pledge to a dream.

"You have to make steps toward it daily, and I think this is a great reminder for all us regardless of what that dream is," he said.

[For the record: An earlier version of the post misspelled Bo Burroughs name and listed his title as CEO of Cardiff Giant. He is the Chief Marketing Officer.

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