Visual artist and designer Wen-Li Chen hopes to explore Lanesboro’s generational divide during her August art residency.

Chen, the Lanesboro Arts artist-in-residence from Aug. 3-28, will conduct interviews and workshops with city residents online, while collecting materials such as photos and archival documents in person.

In one-on-one interviews, Chen hopes to create a dialogue between individuals, their families, communities and generations.

At the end of the month, she’ll create an artist book and installation exploring generational exchange — and tension — from the Root River area. She will also incorporate her experiences as an immigrant in a Western country.

Chen was unfamiliar with Lanesboro before she applied. However, she researched the town and found similarities between the Root River area and her hometown of Hualien, Taiwan — like a focus on tourism, art and cultural development, and the landscape.

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A previous project, "The Distance Between," charted the journey of three generations through Taiwan's societal landscapes — Chen, her mother, and her grandmother.

Photo from “The Distance Between” book made by Wen-Li Chen (contributed photo)
Photo from “The Distance Between” book made by Wen-Li Chen (contributed photo)

Those similarities between the cities led her to believe that her previous art projects’ themes of change and growth from generation to generation would have legs here.

“My previous projects are all about from the perspective of being (a) mix-racial woman growing up in a rural multicultural family, and how to respond and react towards intergenerational issues and topics to reflect on as modern women,” she said.

In Lanesboro, Chen hopes to delve deep with community conversations, asking residents to “rediscover, re-explore their relationship between the people, the place and the history, and ... sustainability located in rural areas.”

At the end of the project, she’ll also share a digital archive of collected photos, documents and interviews, as well as the handmade book collecting those items.

Chen hopes to explore the issues that arise between generations within families, to see whether those disagreements parallel hers as a woman of color and new immigrant.

“I hope the general public can think about the relationship between the present, the past and the future, coming from how you treat your people and place within the group, family, or the community,” she said.

The Lanesboro community can participate in a number of ways, starting with a virtual welcome party over Zoom, beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3. Residents can also sign up for one-on-one interviews throughout the month to share family photos and stories.

At 6 p.m. Aug. 26, Chen will present a virtual work-in-progress capstone project, with an online chronicle of the stories and photos collected.

Register for any of the events at lanesboroarts.org or by calling 507-467-2446.