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Candy Chang brings inspiration, spirit, new ideas to UWGB

Krisa Roggensack, Life Writer
November 7, 2012
Filed under Life

The Common Theme program at UW-Green Bay is dedicated to bringing creativity, innovation and vision to campus. Candy Chang will speak on campus as a part of this program in the Phoenix Rooms Nov. 8 at 8 p.m. Chang is an artist who strives to improve cities and the people in them through her artwork.

In her speech, “Stickers, Stencils, Chalkboards and Beyond: Communicating Creatively in Public Spaces,” Chang will discuss transforming communities through design and art.

Chang has a bachelor’s in architecture, a bachelor’s of fine arts in graphic design and a master’s in urban planning from Columbia University in New York City.

After working with community groups in several different cities around the world, Chang began to question the limitations she had in sharing her wisdom with only her own neighborhood. This led to experimenting in public spaces with stickers, stencils and chalk.

She then created “I Wish This Was,” which converted a vacant storefront into a space where people could come and write what they wanted the storefront to become. The idea was to encourage people to share and develop ideas from each other.

After Chang lost someone close to her, she began exploring the idea of living a meaningful life, which led to the creation of “Before I Die.” For this project, she transformed an abandoned house in New Orleans in her neighborhood into a space where people could express their dreams and aspirations by writing what they want to do before they die on chalkboards. Many people were inspired by the idea, and the project spread around the world.

Another theme of the speech at UWGB will be for individuals to live the best life they can, knowing all their experiences and interests can shape what they do.

“I remember when I was a student feeling this pressure to commit to what I was going to do for the rest of my life,” Chang said. “I felt pressure to figure out my thing and be the best at it, rather than be mediocre at a lot of things.”

Grant Winslow, program coordinator for Student Life, thought Chang was unique, innovative and would be able to inspire students on campus.

“Candy has a real different way of looking at a city or community,” Winslow said. “After her program, people will walk past a vacant building and see potential instead of decay.”

In 2011, Chang was commissioned to create a public art project near the University of Turku in Finland. She decided to make a career path along a bike trail many of the students used. On the path she stenciled “When I was little I wanted to be ________. Today I want to be _______.”

Students and people passing by were able to fill in the blanks with colored chalk. Chang said this project is about reflecting on how people change as they get older. It is also about learning and being inspired by the people around you.

“I’ve heard about some of Candy’s work, and I’m really looking forward to hearing her speak,” said Megahn Daily, junior education major. “Her projects are so inspiring and bring communities together, and that is something that everyone could use a little more of.”

Winslow hopes Chang’s visit will spark creativity in UWGB students.

“Everyone should be interested in their community. Maybe Candy will inspire people to go back to their hometowns and make some changes,” Winslow said.

One of Chang’s most recent projects is called “Confessions.” It is an area in Las Vegas where people can write down their confessions anonymously on post cards and secretly share them with everyone else. By the end of the project, more than 1,500 confessions were on display in The Cosmopolitan, a hotel in Las Vegas. Chang wanted to connect everyone to each other.

Chang hopes to inspire students with her speech during her visit.

“I’ll talk about how I got to be where I am today in hopes that some bit here or there will stir students’ minds in things they’ve been thinking about in their life and work,” Chang said.