Candy ChangPhoto:Randal FordThe house was a nightmare. “It had been collecting dust and graffiti since Katrina and there was something very shabby and Brothers Grimm about it,” says Candy Chang, an artist and graphic designer who lives just a few blocks from the place in New Orleans.

But where others saw blight, Chang saw an opportunity, and armed with a few buckets of paint, she transformed the derelict house from a symbol of the community’s decay into an emblem of its collective aspirations.

With permission from the property owner and neighborhood groups, Chang turned the front wall of the house into a giant chalkboard, stenciling, “Before I die I want to ___________” across the boarded-up facade dozens of times. The statement became an open invitation to residents to fill in the blank. And they did.