A new form of artwork is coming to Jay Street.
Starting next week, Union College students will erect a blackboard titled, “Before I die, I want to …” The goal is to create a conversational piece in which passers-by write down their goals, dreams and hopes.
Artist Candy Chang of New Orleans developed the original idea, which she encourages others to replicate. On her website, Chang said she covered the side of a vacant building with chalkboard paint and asked her neighbors to write about their aspirations. The answers varied from watching a daughter graduate to meeting an alien.
“I understood my neighbors in new and enlightening ways, and the wall reminded me that I’m not alone as I try to make sense of my life,” Chang wrote about the experience.
In Schenectady, the board will be moved to Jerry Burrell Park and Central Park over the course of the summer. Organizers will maintain the board, photographing it, removing inappropriate messages and erasing the entire board when it fills up.
Merchants on the Jay Street pedestrian walkway are looking forward to the unusual exhibit.
“It’s about time more creativity came back,” said Elisabeth Rolfe, owner of Crossroads. “We need more art on Jay Street.”
But is writing art?
“It’s still a form of art,” Rolfe said.
Other merchants are trying to decide what they’ll write on the board.
At Zaria & Bella’s, owner Lance Dzintars has accomplished most of his dreams. The most recent: opening his own store.
“I’ve pretty much hit every goal I’ve set for myself,” he said. “I’ve jumped out of the airplanes and I’ve done the scuba diving and I’ve opened the store. And I’ve written the book.”
“I have to write a new goal for myself,” he said.
After a moment, he confessed that he’d always wanted to be an adjunct professor. He’s just not sure what he would teach. As he watched teenagers stroll past the store, he said he’d love to teach a class on how to dress to get a job. Maybe he could also teach resume-writing and career-building, he mused. There might not be a college class on that subject, he said, but there should be.
Others want to see what pedestrians write on the board.
“It’s a pretty interesting project, just to get an outlook on what people are thinking,” said Kurt Hellijas, owner of the Re-Collector. “All the walkers and visitors, see what’s on people’s minds, see what kind of dreams they have.”