‘Before I Die’ poses a loaded question from museum this summer

Some expressions are written in chalk at an interactive wall asking “Before I die, I want to ... ,” through Sept. 29 outside the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach.
Some expressions are written in chalk at an interactive wall asking “Before I die, I want to ... ,” through Sept. 29 outside the Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach. Courtesy photo

Kicking around ideas on which to focus in a lifetime could make a bucket list overflow very easily. Human nature entails trying to cope with aging, heartbreak and loss, the finite nature and limitations of life in this world, and goals and dreams that await attainment.

The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum in Myrtle Beach has planted a forum for this motive with “Before I Die,” right on its front lawn. Everyone is invited to stop by any time of day through Sept. 29 and fill in a blank after “Before I die, I want to … .”

Find the chalkboard walls at 3100 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, just past the museum’s driveway on Springmaid Boulevard, across from Midway Par 3 Golf and Springmaid Beach Resort.

Liz Miller and Pat Goodwin, the museum’s respective curator and executive director, elaborated about Myrtle Beach joining this global avenue of expression, as shown at beforeidie.cc/site/.

Question | Where did museum personnel first hear of this “Before I Die” outreach project for public input, and from where?

Miller | I first saw a “Before I Die” wall on an exterior wall of the Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston, in November 2011. I was so amazed by the impact this simply designed wall was having on the community. Many remarks on the wall were insightful, while others were amusing. Some were outlandish. Some were inspiring. It was just as much fun to read what others had written as it was to write my own. The installation really stuck with me. Then, a “Before I Die” wall was constructed as a community art project associated with ArtFields 2014 in Lake City. The art museum organized a road trip to ArtFields that year, and our director, Patricia Goodwin, who went along, was fascinated by the wall and how much its visitors were loving it. When planning for our 2015 exhibits, we knew we had to bring the “Before I Die” project to the Grand Strand. What better venue than the art museum?

Goodwin | As Liz mentions, I saw my first “Before I Die” art wall at ArtFields in 2014. At that time, my thoughts went back to 2009 and the museum’s “Seeking Sundays” program. That was our popular lecture series designed around Jonathan Green’s painting “Seeking.” Jonathan has often said, “We are all seeking something.” So, on the tea porch during the lecture series, we put out pieces of tan construction paper, black markers and twine. We asked lecture participants and visitors, “What are you seeking?” They wrote their responses and then went outside and hung them in one of our beautiful oak trees where they were available for all to read. We called that majestic oak the museum’s “Seeking Tree.” It was a special time of community and individual reflection and sharing. Although our Seeking Tree did not become an international phenomena, I believe that it was a fitting precursor to our “Before I Die” wall. (By the way, that magical painting will be part of Jonathan’s “Rice Paintings” exhibition that will be on display at the museum beginning Sept. 29.)

Q. | Was this endeavor saved for this time of year, for the most exposure through our busiest tourist season, and to go along with the usual interactivity with museum summer exhibits?

Miller | We chose to exhibit the wall during the summer months, not only because of our heavy summer foot traffic and our interactivity with summer exhibits, but also for the wall’s ability to attract newcomers to the museum. The “Before I Die” wall has a striking presence on the museum’s front lawn and is hard to miss if you’re a passer-by on Ocean Boulevard. The wall has attracted new visitors to the museum, who had passed by the building time and time again but weren’t aware of its entity as an art museum and all it has to offer at no cost to the visitor.

Goodwin | In addition to deciding on when to exhibit the art wall, the other important question was how. Although each “Before I Die” wall is unique to its specific place of origin, I think Liz used her special curatorial sense of design to come up with the perfect shape and spot. Months before it opened, Liz brought several ideas to the table, including putting the wall on exterior side walls of the museum and under the building. But then, on a photograph of the museum, she PhotoShopped a pie-shaped wall, sitting on the museum’s front lawn, right next to Springmaid Boulevard. The museum’s “Before I Die” wall came to life. It was, through Liz’s ingenuity, going to be visible and accessible to all who wanted to participate. Liz and volunteer Phil La Borie finished the wall on a Monday at 5 p.m. By Tuesday morning at 9 a.m., all 84 spaces were filled. We knew at that moment that this was going to be a special summer.

Q. | About how many declarations by passers-by are tallied every day or week, and how is that total documented?

Miller | It’s hard to keep up with a tally of participants, as the wall is subject to weather. Rain tends to wash the wall clean for new entries. What I’ve been doing to document the wall is keep a photo log. Before a rainstorm or before I wash the wall to make room for new entries, I photograph it. The museum has a mini-site – beforeidie.cc/site/myrtle-beach/ – under the umbrella of the official “Before I Die” website, where we post new photos on occasion. We’ll also post photos via social media, such as Facebook, so our visitors from afar can experience the wonder of the wall as well.

Q. | What writings by people have struck museum officials as the most eye catching, heart gripping and thought provoking in answering, “Before I die I want to … ”?

Miller | “LIVE”; “see the world”; “save a life”; “to tell you the truth, I don’t really want to die”; “marry my boyfriend (I’m a guy)”; “see my kids graduate from college”; “inspire someone”; “be happy with who I am”; “fall in love again”; “know why”; “see my sons reconciled”; “have fun”; “get published”; “learn how to do a backflip”; “make, create peace”; “meet my favorite band”; “see a cure for cancer”; “use chalk in public”; and “do yoga in Times Square.”

Q. | Care to share what statement you have written on the board, or would or will write, as your ultimate wish(es) – if I state mine (Before I die, I want to … pen a bestseller; and graduate to grandparenthood)?

Miller | “Before I die, I want to … see my mother healed of cancer … for good.  

Goodwin | I am actually still pondering my statement. I sometimes joke with myself that I want it to be something like, “Before I die, I want to … raise $10 million for the art museum to secure its legacy of dedication to the arts and to arts education.

Contact STEVE PALISIN at 444-1764.

If you go

What, who and when |

▪ “Before I Die,” through Sept. 29, on front lawn and accessible at any time and day for everyone to write down a lifetime dream or goal.

▪ “Steve Jameson: Ode to the Grand Strand,” 47 paintings, through Sept. 13.

▪ “Norman Rockwell’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn,” with 16 prints; “Sandy Logan: Ironic Abstraction,” with 25 photographs; and “John Baeder’s Road Well Taken,” with 36 paintings – all through Sept. 20.

Where | Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chapin Art Museum, 3100 S. Ocean Blvd., Myrtle Beach, across from Midway Par 3 Golf and Springmaid Beach Resort.

Open | 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays.

Also |

▪ Gallery talk with Sandy Logan, 3:30 p.m. July 29, for free, but reservations required.

▪ Book signing for release of “John Baeder’s Road Well Taken,” time and date for September to be announced.

Information | 238-2510 or www.myrtlebeachartmuseum.org