The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

Creative ways of engaging communities can help us foster hope and belonging together.

Urban space artist behind the "Before I Die" walls

Candy Chang | Urban Space Artist Behind the "Before I Die" Walls
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Before I Die I Want To… (6:21)

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As Human Beings, We All Have Mental Health Issues (3:23)

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How Is Dying Well a “Moral Obligation”? (2:53)

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The Power of Knowing You’re Not Alone (2:56)

Lavin Exclusive Speaker

In an age of polarization and distrust, we can still come together in community. World-renowned artist Candy Chang has spent her career exploring creative ways to foster belonging and connection. Her initiatives include the Before I Die walls, where people reflected on death together by writing down what they wanted to do before they died; a project where she provided doorknob hangers so neighbors could borrow and lend household items; Confessions, where she invited people to share secrets anonymously; and many more. The Atlantic called Before I Die “one of the most creative community projects ever.” In inspiring, authentic talks, Candy shows us how to leverage the power of creativity and community to foster spaces of belonging in our schools, homes, and organizations.

Through a series of large-scale projects that combine installation art with social activism, Chang has encouraged people to engage with public spaces to let their voices be heard. O Magazine

Through brilliant public art installations, Candy Chang provokes both playful and profound visions for how we can connect, reflect, and nurture the health of our communities. Candy is best known for the Before I Die project, which began when she stenciled the words “Before I die I want to _____” on a chalkboard wall on an abandoned house in New Orleans after losing someone she loved. The interactive project has since grown into a global phenomenon. Today, there are over 5,000 Before I Die walls in over 70 countries, including Iraq, China, Brazil, Kazakhstan, and South Africa. The Before I Die project and subsequent book, which features walls around the world and insights into our aspirations, have been featured on CNN, NBC, TED, AP News, and WIRED.

Her other projects include the interactive public installation A Monument for the Anxious and Hopeful at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. When it closed in late 2018, the project had amassed over 55,000 anxieties and hopes. She also created Neighborland, a public engagement tool to help organizations and residents give input and collaborate on the future of their communities. Most recently, her video installation The Nightly News reveals the images that haunt our dreams—and emphasizes the commonalities that bind us together.

A TED Senior Fellow, Urban Innovation Fellow, and World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Candy has also created installations for people to share their hopes for vacant storefronts, a confessional sanctuary in a Las Vegas casino, designated sites for crying in Hong Kong, and a double-sided door-hanger where people could offer or request household items. Her work has been exhibited in the Venice Architecture Biennale, New Museum, and Tate Modern. She was also named one of the Top 100 Leaders in Public Interest Design by Impact Design Hub and a “Live Your Best Life” Local Hero by Oprah Magazine.


You could have dropped a pin on the floor during your talk—we were spellbound by you. It was big, it was deep, and it was one of the most compelling talks and moments I’ve ever experienced. Your calm and soothing tone during your opening keynote was provocative in big picture thinking, emotional, thoughtful, and a game changer for many of us in the room. Thank you for sharing your incredible intelligence, your raw feelings, and your big world view. Wow, wow, wow…

Motion Picture and Television Fund

Thank you for spending time with our scholars this past weekend. I wish you could have heard all the incredible things that they said about you and how much your stories have inspired them. Seeing how you’ve made your own discipline, found the freedom of being ‘scrappy,' persevered through grief, and most of all, empowered ‘quiet' people with a voice... My mind is pretty much blown. Please know that your willingness to share your personal journey was appreciated in ways you cannot imagine and will continue to resonate with us all for years to come. The weekend could not have been the incredible success it was without you.

Bezos Scholars

Your presentation resonated strongly with me, as well as your voice and its distinctive calm quality. I heard the story you told as if it were suffused with a steady glowing light, emanating with a clear sense of purpose. What also remains with me from your talk is that as an urban planner, it was your deep dissatisfaction with community engagement that compelled you to step into a new role, challenging and reshaping community outreach and connection. Your passion and creative thoughts on bringing out the best in people and communities is inspiring. I very much aspire to speak of my life’s work with the same sense of inspired serenity as you do.

Simon Fraser University

Your presentation was so inspiring at the academy event this morning. Your personal story and healing was palpable, and the Before I Die project is a beautifully simple way of getting people in our communities to live better by talking about dying. It was very moving to me, and you did it without being saccharine. I appreciate your wisdom and how you have expanded our horizons. My wife died six months ago and I am grieving, but hearing you this morning gave me hope.

American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine

Just saw you speak at SCAD and wanted to say thanks for being a positive force in the universe. I brought my college aged son who has been dealing with some mild depression and what you said resonated with him. Please please keep doing what you do. For all you have done to make my classes around design for social impact better—sincere and humble thank you. I love how your work balances playful and thoughtful, and encourages participants and viewers to take a chance and strive for change. Thank you for allowing us all to be our vulnerable selves. I am forever in your debt.

Savannah College of Art and Design

Your presentation was brilliant and opened so many areas for conversation. Your projects are able to engage communities in such a pure and straightforward manner that is so effective. I can’t help but think that the Before I Die project is so much more than a wall: it’s a place to come to terms, to realize, to confess, to write love on ones arms. It’s a glimpse, a chance, to challenge, to change, to go after our dreams. I think we all need to be reminded that life is still worth fighting for.

Sydney Vivid Ideas Festival

I heard you speak at the Vistage event this week and I want to let you know you touched me deeply. I love the honesty of your work, the fact that it has a clear social agenda, is about and for people, and somehow seems familiar yet remains refreshing. Thank you for sharing, so courageously, what you do. I was so inspired. During your speech, the woman next to me was quietly crying. I was nervous to reach out to her, since I didn’t know her. Then I thought of how brave you are and how you are talking about connecting to people, so I reached out and touched her on the leg. She was so grateful. It was a small moment and a small gesture, but it made a small connection and you inspired it.


I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to have you here, after many years of following your work and admiring your gifts around the art of starting a community conversation. So many people have told me how much they appreciated your talk, your reflections on life and how they influenced your work, and the way you walked us through so many ideas on living a more thoughtful life. Your presentation was provocative in the best way, prompting several discussions about things we should explore that hadn’t previously been on our radar. Thank you so much for coming and enriching all of our lives.

Metropolitan Planning Council

I saw you speak at the Global Health Summit and I can't tell you how much your talk touched and inspired me. I have struggled with my own mental health issues recently and the questions you were asking resonated so deeply with me. Thank you for sharing what is a really difficult thing to talk about with a public audience. You are so brave and you also inspired me professionally. Your talk made me think about expanding my work so it engages the community in some way… I don't know what it will look like yet but I wanted to thank you for making me think about it in a new way.

Global Health Summit

Speech Topics

Civic Engagement
Sparking Connection in CommunityHow to Cultivate Engagement and Inclusion

World-renowned artist Candy Chang has spent her career cultivating new, creative ways to engage communities. Her acclaimed art projects—from the global phenomenon of her Before I Die walls, to the simple two-sided doorknob hangers that facilitated sharing between neighbors—have helped communities around the world connect in deeper, more authentic ways.

In this honest, heartfelt talk, Candy draws on her body of work to show how organizations, schools, and companies can implement creative ways to build community. She shows how small initiatives can be instrumental in cultivating spaces of trust, inclusion, and belonging—so that everyone feels welcome and fully able to contribute. A riveting speaker, Candy offers practical lessons drawn from her unique career, and empowers teams and individuals alike to form connections and community in powerful ways.

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Social Justice
Before I DieConnecting and Reflecting Together

A small seed of an idea can be the source of dramatic innovation. When Candy Chang stencilled the phrase “Before I die I want to_____” onto a derelict house in New Orleans after she lost someone she loved, she invited anyone and everyone to participate. It was a simple act. And with it, she unleashed the latent creativity amongst the thousands of people who have taken part around the world. Her project not only encourages people to contemplate their greatest hopes and aspirations, but it offers a space to develop our own comfort talking about grief and death.

In this talk, Candy shares the project in-depth, including the process, responses, global themes, and remixes, as well as cultural histories around death and grief that can help inform a more compassionate society. Often paired with a real Before I Die wall for attendees to share, Candy’s talks provide a poignant and profound experience for people to restore perspective and reflect on their lives together.

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Mental Health and Fitness
We All Have Mental Health IssuesOur Inner Worlds in Public

Candy Chang argues that we all have mental health issues. At various times in our lives, we experience stress, sorrow, anxiety, or confusion, and these feelings can easily escalate into more intense conflicts like addiction, depression, and self-destruction if we ignore them. In this keynote, Candy shares her personal experiences with grief and depression and how she has channeled her emotional struggles into her participatory public art experiments, including spaces for anonymous confessions. By exposing more of our interior world in public, she hopes to help destigmatize discussions around mental health and fitness.

Drawing upon her body of work, she shares what she has learned from thousands of honest and vulnerable responses from people around the world, and reveals ways we might gain new perspectives on the role we play in our relationships with others as well as our relationship with ourselves. Finally, she discusses a range of practical tools that have helped her cultivate her own mental fitness and shows that what we might consider our weaknesses can become our strengths.

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