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Filmmaker Brings ‘Before I Die’ Project Back To St. Louis

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Elle Mercurio-Cherrier
“Before I Die” project consists of a makeshift wall set up for passersby to pick up a piece of chalk and fill in the blank after the phrase “Before I die I want to… .”

Updated Feb. 15 with revised projest dates

Filmmaker Elle Mercurio-Cherrier postponed the project due to personal reasons. The wall will go up in Forest Park near the Muny amphitheater on March 5-7, 2021.

Original story from Jan. 19: As the coronavirus pandemic and political turmoil drag on into the new year, the related stress is exacerbating mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.

“You can't say to yourself [that] you haven't thought about how depressing life is right now,” Elle Mercurio-Cherrier said to St. Louis on the Air. “Or if you have kids, what kind of future they’ll have 10 years from now. And just the things going on in the news would make any person feel depressed.”

Mercurio-Cherrier, a resident of Florissant, knows first-hand how struggles can spiral out of control. Formerly addicted to heroin, the filmmaker is dedicated to visual craft and is celebrating 10 years of sobriety.

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Elle Mercurio-Cherrier is a local independent horror filmmaker based in Florissant, Missouri.

“There are a lot of people that think that we can't go on or there's no value, just like a lot of people think that there's no value when they've made a lot of bad decisions — [but] there still is. As long as you're six feet above ground, you still have time to make beautiful things out of your life,” she said.

Her latest endeavors include a series of new films and bringing an international community art project back to St. Louis. With the project, she hopes to reinstill hope and remind people of all the good left to accomplish in this lifetime.

Created by artist Candy Chang in 2013, the “Before I Die” project consists of a makeshift wall set up for passersby to pick up a piece of chalk and fill in the blank after the phrase “Before I die I want to… .”

On Tuesday’s St. Louis on the Air, Mercurio-Cherrier joined host Sarah Fenske to talk more about the self-reflective activity. Starting Jan. 31 and lasting for one week, the wall will go up in Forest Park near the Muny amphitheater.

“What better time than right now to have a project, an installation, that enables individuals to share their unique desires and values, as well as a shared snapshot of our collective anxieties, hopes and joys and sorrows,” she said.

People interested in creating the wall in their area can visit the project’s website.

“I think it's more or less they would like to know about it so they can keep track of all these walls being built. But yeah, you have to ask for permission and then you get their permission, obviously, then you have to find the proper venue … and [consult] the proper government,” Mercurio-Cherrier said.

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is a producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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