What do you want to do before you die?
It is a question posed by chalkboard walls around the country and world, but Flagstaff will not be adding one.
The Beautification and Public Art Commission considered a beautification in action grant to create a chalkboard wall for people to share their aspirations, but public reaction to the idea was generally negative.
“I do not consider this public art,” Flagstaff Community Forum user Dennis Roberts wrote in response to the idea on the city’s website. “Based on the example shown it looks more like graffiti and is not in character with Flagstaff.”
The commission is no longer considering the installation as a project, city of Flagstaff spokeswoman Jessica Drum said.
Even early in the discussion process, some commissioners voiced concern that the wall would become a place where people would write obscenities or other vulgar drawings or language. Even the example photo of a wall in Savannah, Georgia, included the response “I want to skydive and have sex at the same time,” among more conventional answers like “cure cancer,” or “become a teacher.”
There have been similar walls put up in four other Arizona cities Phoenix, Scottsdale, Oro Valley and Tucson, some of which were only up for a short amount of time, like to commemorate a historical event. The walls were either put up on private property, like the side of an art gallery, or at a place of higher education, including the University of Arizona and Scottsdale Community College.
No community members voiced their opinions about the piece at two public meetings held by the Beautification and Public Art Commission, but 17 people expressed their opinions on the city’s community forum website and on the city’s Facebook page. Of those, nine said they did not think the wall was appropriate or attractive. Commenters on Facebook were nearly evenly divided in favor of and against it.
However, other commenters mentioned they had seen similar walls and other cities and found them thought-provoking and interesting to read. Variations of the wall idea have been installed in 76 countries, including China, Iraq, Kenya and Germany, and written in 38 languages, according to the Before I Die website.
The wall would have been created in conjunction with a project to create a civic space near the CenturyLink building downtown, which could include a mural, park benches and other public amenities in the area, if the project is approved by CenturyLink and the city.