The “When I Fly Naz” project started with a Twitter assignment. The students in Professor Leah Stacy’s class, Writing for Digital Media, were asked to tweet about the most interesting thing they had read that week, in hopes students would build an online presence for their future professional lives. Student Chase Ferren (’16) retweeted an article from Medium.com, “What Would You Before You Die?” An art installation entitled “Before I Die” was launched in 2011 by now-TED Fellow, Candy Chang, in honor of a close friend who had recently passed. According to the article, written and posted on Medium.com by Karen Eng, this art installation inspired people from 73 countries, speaking 36 different languages, to erect their own “Before I Die” walls.
Passers-by of the chalkboard “Before I Die” walls are encouraged to share what they hope to accomplish and experience before their time arrives. Some responses elicit laughter from deep in the reader’s belly (“Before I die I want to be a stripper and a nun at the same time”), some inspire (“…I want to be completely myself”) and some draw out tears from a fundamental place in the human mind (“…I want to stop being afraid”).
The article sparked a discussion in Nazareth’s Writing for Digital Media class: What made this project so popular?; How does it relate to digital media?; Is this something we should have at Nazareth and how could Nazareth get involved? Classmates Chase Ferren (’16), Desiree Moore (’15) and Yomayra Guerrero (’16) decided then to launch their own version of the “Before I Die” installation.
In order to tailor the project to better suit college students, Ferren, Moore and Guerrero changed the question to “What will you do when you graduate?” The wall’s topic was then shortened to “When I graduate…” and then changed again to “When I Fly Naz…” as an homage to Nazareth’s mascot, the Golden Flyer. The chalkboard wall was painted onto a wall in Nazareth’s tunnels, a route connecting most of the campus’ buildings and frequented by students during the many cold months in Rochester. The tunnel walls are adorned with dozens of murals from the decades of students who have passed through them. As a living art installation, the “When I Fly Naz” group felt the wall belongs amongst the murals.
During the Spring ’15 “Senior Week,” on April 10th, the wall was revealed. Over sixty people went to write on the wall on the 10th and the following days to share their goals and aspirations with the Nazareth community. Nazareth seniors were encouraged to go write on the wall after picking up their caps and gowns from the bookstore; writing on the wall was made part of the senior experience. The answers to “what will you do when you when you graduate?” closely resembled the answers to the original “Before I Die” installation. Responses varied from “…love myself” to “…make a difference in my community” and “…become the principal of an elementary school” Every answer was a reflection of each particular student’s experience as a member of the Nazareth community.
Leah Stacy, the professor instructing the class from which this project grew, expressed her thoughts on the importance of having such an installation, “It would help with community efforts, and bringing the college community together because it’s something that everyone can really get involved with.” The goal is indeed to get all students involved, as writing on the wall will be an integral part of Senior week in the coming years, as a rite of passage into the Nazareth alumni community.
A short film was created by Fish and Crown Creative to document the graduates of 2015 writing on the wall. The film will be shown at the senior banquet and graduation. Additionally, Chase Ferren filmed a short video as part of the project, which can be found below.
In the future, photos will be taken of the wall and posted on Nazareth College’s website in an archive so it can be erased and future seniors can take part in sharing their inspiring dreams.
Search #WhenIFlyNaz on Twitter and Instagram to see what students have been writing on the wall.