Writers & Books’ glass-enclosed atrium is home to changing exhibitions that intersect with the literary arts, storytelling, Rochester’s history, and issues in the public conversation. Annalisa Barron inaugurated our Artist in Residence series in 2020 with Place Projectors: Bringing Light, Lenses, and Words Together, and served as volunteer curator through 2022. Currently, artist Susan Begy is the series’ volunteer curator. Mounted two times a year, exhibitions are selected by invitation. Artists in Residence facilitate interactive public experiences of their artwork, conduct open-house gallery talks, and document the evolving nature of their exhibitions on our website.

Always With Us, by Julie Chen

September 1 – November 18, 2023 Residency

Artist in Residence Julie Chen’s Always with Us gathers stories in the community of loved ones who have been lost and weaves them into a cloud-like installation made with the departed’s belongings.

In this community-engaged, progressive exhibition, Chen aims to offer healing and remembrance, an expression of collective grief and a representation of how loved ones linger with us beyond death. The artist invites community members to lend soft objects, write stories from memories, and submit audio recordings of, by, or about the departed. She will form these contributions into a dynamic, sensorial, cloud-like installation hung in Writers & Books’ glass-enclosed entrance.

The cloud will be revealed at the opening on November 3 as an expression of how our loved ones remain among us, as if floating in the ether above.

After the conclusion of the exhibition, individuals who contributed items will receive a complimentary exhibition catalog.

Call for Community Participation

Have you lost a loved one who still feels ever-present in your life? Do you keep a treasured object that reminds you of your loved one? Perhaps something soft and comforting– a coat, sweater, scarf, hat? Perhaps you also keep something intangible: stories, favorite sayings, or a voicemail recording. Do you wish to share memories of your loved ones with others?

Julie Chen has been working with what is left behind by people and places, and invites you to participate in a community installation in remembrance of those who were closest to us—gone, but still always with us. Community members are invited to lend soft objects; write stories from memories; and submit audio recordings of, by, or about the departed for Julie to form into a dynamic and sensorial “cloud” installation.

What might I contribute to this project about my loved one?

Participants will lend soft objects (clothing, scarves, hats, plush toys, etc.) to the project, which will be returned after the exhibition. Objects will be secured with clips and safety pins (no cutting, glues, or adhesives). Efforts will be made to return all objects in their original state.

Participants are also welcome to submit any or all of the following:

  • a brief narrative about the loved one and the object’s significance (250 words maximum)
  • quotes or short sayings of the departed loved ones (textual or  recorded)
  • a voicemail recording left by the departed
  • a video that includes the voice of the departed


Requests for participation are reviewed on a rolling basis until September 29, 2023. Fill out the Google Form below to request participation and receive a response by September 30. We may not be able to accept all requests, due to space limitations or the challenges of specific objects. Google Form


Selected participants will receive a schedule for dropping off objects and meeting the artist at Writers & Books.

If you have audio you’d like to submit and need help recording it or transferring recordings from  a source, such as a cellphone or video, we will make arrangements to assist you at Writers & Books.

When can I view the installation?

Community participants are invited to a sneak preview on Friday, November 3, at 5:30 pm, a half-hour before the public opening at 6 pm.

How do I get my precious objects back?

Expect pickup to begin the week of November 27. Details are forthcoming.

Significant Dates

Submissions Window & Interviews
September 2 – 30

Meet the Artist
Friday, September 8 | 6 – 8 pm | Gift Economy Tix | Registration Required
View artworks from Chen’s current collection that inspire and inform her upcoming exhibition Always with Us, which includes Eidolon of A-Ngoh, “I can’t forget, okay?,” The Last Shoe, and Getting Comfortable with Death

Eidolon of A-Ngoh: In Between Performance
Thursday, November 9 | 6:30 – 7:30 pm | Gift Economy Tix | Registration Required
Chen exhibits what remains of her mother Peggy Chen’s life (her cremains) and her identity (clothing), from a gallery installation into  a costume for performance. Here, she expresses the death of the person who once gave her life and the many lives she led.

Gallery Talk & Opening of Always With Us
Friday, November 3 | 6 – 8 pm | Gift Economy Tix | Registration Required
Join artist Julie Chen and Artist in Residence co-curator Susan Begy for a conversation on the creation and curation of Always With Us and experience the final stage of the “cloud.”

Julie Chen is an interdisciplinary artist whose work examines remembrance of beings and place. She has an MFA in Interdisciplinary Art from the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford, and a BFA in Multimedia and Performing Arts from the Studio for Interrelated Media at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, alongside a career in architecture education. Her artwork has been shown in galleries and museums across New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin. Locally in Rochester, she is known for her performance of Eidolon of A-Ngoh: In Between at Dances at MuCCC 2023 and the interactive piece “I can’t forget, okay?” No.2, winner of the The Yards Award RoCo Members Exhibition, February 2023.

Julie Chen Website
Julie Chen Instagram

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