By Jamie Carroll
To local artist Candy Chang, every vacant lot, dilapidated home and unused storefront is an opportunity. To encourage communities to think about unused or underutilized spaces, Chang started the “I Wish This Was” campaign as part of the Ethnographic Terminalia show at Du Mois Gallery (4921 Freret St.). “Currently residents have limited say in what kinds of businesses open in their neighborhood,” Chang says. “This is a crude, simple tool to shape community development.”
Chang places individual custom vinyl stickers (so they can be easily removed without damaging property) or clusters of them on blighted properties and dormant buildings. At the top, stickers read, “I wish this was.” There is a blank white space for people to write what they would like to see at the location. “Properly paved” was written on a sticker on a street plagued with potholes. “A Higher Priority of the City” was scrawled at Circle Food Store on St. Bernard Avenue. “Not only available online & @ Jazz Fest” was outside of the vacant Vaucresson Sausage Company on St. Bernard Avenue. “Adequately Funded” was written at the entrance to the University of New Orleans.
People who wish to place their own stickers can pick them up at some local bookstores and cafes. New Orleanians can load photos of the stickers on Flickr with the tag “wishthiswas” to create a showcase of the areas of the city that need attention.
Ethnographic Terminalia, which combines art and anthropology, closes tonight. In it, more than 20 international artists depict different facets of culture and history through mixed media. Philippine artist Dada Docot took photographs of dilapidated books from her family home. British artist Simon Rattigan constructed a human skull from small pieces of glass, pottery, plastic and stone he collected around his neighborhood.
Chang created the “I Wish This Was” to engage communities with their environments. She co-founded Civic Center, an urban design studio operating in several U.S. cities, that tries to make citizens catalysts for change in their neighborhoods. Projects include a “Sexy Trees of the Marigny” Calendar, Post-It Notes describing housing costs in Brooklyn, New York and “Please Disturb” signs recently featured in Good Magazine to hang on doorknobs to alert neighbors of items they could borrow. She is working on an online version of the project. “It will be a simple way for people to voice their wants and needs and make changes happen,” says Chang.