By: Stacy Liberatore
How many times have you walked by an empty building and said “I wish this was a…”? Well now you can visibly voice your opinion with the “I wish this was…” project.
The idea was started by Candy Chang, a public installation artist, in New Orleans during December 2010. She created vinyl stickers with the heading, “I wish this was”, with a blank space underneath. After the devastation Katrina left buy, many business owners couldn’t re-open, which left many abandoned buildings.
The idea behind the project is so the community can voice their opinions on what they would like to see vacant buildings in their town be used for.
“When I moved to the Marigny in New Orleans last summer I was surprised by the number of vacant storefronts amidst a neighborhood chock full of people who want and need lots of things, including a grocery with fresh produce,” said Chang, “I think many of us walk by vacant storefronts in our neighborhoods and have opinions of what we’d like to see in them.”
With support from the Ethnographic Terminali exhibit, she placed boxes of free stickers in businesses around the city and posted grids of blank stickers and a permanent marker on vacant storefronts to invite passersby to write their thoughts. “Fill out and put on buildings,” said Chang as she distributed them to the public. The stickers are vinyl and they can be easily removed without damaging property.
Stickers have been seen saying “I wish this was… A grocery store, a comfy couch, a city during a revolution. Chang was greatly surprised, what she thought might be a fun and goofy way of expression has taken cities by storm.
The stickers can still be seen all over New Orleans and are making their way across the nation. She calls her sticker project “an experiment in public space,” meant to pose the question “what if residents had more of a say?” In addition, she hopes the exercise remains “loose, funny, interesting and entertaining.”
To some it may seem nothing more than a sticker, but to others it is a revolution of ideas. A way to make a city the way you have always dreamed it could be. And starting in New Orleans where everything was destroyed, this artist may have opened a door and let some light shine for the city.
“What if we could easily say what we want, where we want it? That was the inspiration for I Wish This Was. It’s a kind of love child of urban planning and street art,” said Chang “A crude tool and experiment to see what might happen if we could easily say what we wanted in vacant storefronts and beyond.”