Great Social Media Idea: Before I Die...

This weekend, I watched a short documentary - The Antics Roadshow - that was all about public pranks and activism that, through their artistic power, have become iconic. It was produced by Banksy, the legendary street artist whose film Exit Through the Gift Shop is easily one of my favorite movies ever, and it reminded me of how much I love public art projects. It's a been cited so many times that it's trite at this point, but Volkswagen's Fun Theory initiative remains one of the most brilliant marketing things I've ever encountered, and it all hinges on the power public art has to bring color and smiles into our gray, concrete worlds.

So when I saw that University of New Hampshire - which always has awesome social media stuff, not to mention UNH's social media manager Jason Boucher writes some fantastic stuff about social media on his blog and elsewhere - was doing a "Before I Die..." board, I got super excited. Originated by artist Candy Chang in New Orleans, Before I Die boards have become one of the most beloved public art projects over the past few years.

In a nutshell, a Before I Die board is basically a big fill-in-the-blank, where people write what they would like to do before they die. Answers will range from hilarious to heartbreaking. To learn more about the UNH project, a student blogger - Tom Spencer - highlighted the board and some of its recurrent themes on the UNH Tales blog.

This is a wonderful art project that checks all the boxes - its big and visual, its interactive, its thoughtful, it has purpose, and it stops to make people think. Passersby will stop and read it for several minutes, and it lends itself extremely well to producing long-lasting content in the form of photo galleries, essays, lists, and even video if you have someone documenting it. Not surprisingly, a quick search on Instagram and Twitter shows a lot of students posting photos of it... it's just so magnetic and interesting!

Even if you decide not to do this particular project - a lot of places have done them now - I would very strongly urge you to consider doing some sort of fun, interactive public art project every now and then. It's very much worth the time... the disposable camera project I did at UP this spring - which I stole from Ithaca College, mind you - is still talked about on campus all the time, with students, staff, and faculty alike talking about how fun it was and how much they enjoyed taking part in it.

Convince your bosses to let you take the time to plan and implement something like this. It will make your community feel more tight-knit, will make your alumni and parents proud, and it will bring color and smiles into people's days... how could you not do it?  :)

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