Call for Participants

*If you are reading this, I am continuing to collect writings and would love to receive yours.


As an artist whose work encompasses themes of hardship and war and the immigrant experience, I am naturally led to the indispensable narratives of healing. To resume the course, I humbly invite participants to contribute your handwritten letters to a project that I call That We Should Be Heirs. This project which will result in an interactive fine art installation at San Diego Art Institute (SDAI).

We have inherited much. We are the inheritors of wars and suffering, spiritual and psychological. We are the inheritors of trauma, physical and emotional. But we, indeed, are also heirs of the mighty will and survival instinct that lengthens our spine as we stand for justice, fighting against the destructive forces that aim to deter us from the freedom that is ours to claim. We are heirs of the generational strength that buoys us in deep waters, and the ancestral resilience that ushers us toward healing and into deeper understanding. This project invites members of the community to share in our inheritance, utilizing art as part of our practice in compassion and restoration as we confront our own personal conflicts with gentleness.

Who : I have been graciously invited to work with SDAI along with our partners in developing this special project for our community. All are encouraged to contribute handwritten letters; all letters received will be included in the installation. This will be an all-inclusive, multi-voice, multi-language, interactive, self-reflective, community-building project.

Why : That We Should Be Heirs encourages participants to engage in the fading art of letter-writing as a method of alleviating burden and promoting healing. By putting hand to paper and joining one another in this collective activity of personal letter-writing, we can share in this intimate process of privately documenting the stories, hardships, and triumphs that connect us all. In taking part in such activity, we also offer support for one another during this process.

What : Letters written by immigrants and families of immigrants are encouraged. Letters handwritten in participants’ native tongues are welcomed and encouraged. Writings by survivors are encouraged. (Please scroll down for more themes that might spark something in you.) During the residency, I will be facilitating on-site activities and off-site workshops during which participants will be asked to write letters to themselves and/or others to pay respect to those who have shared in our heartaches and the approaches we’ve found to quiet our pain. Letters can be as long or as short as the author wishes for it to be. It is important that contributors’ hands are involved in the project, and therefore, only original handwritten letters will be included in the installation. I respect the privacy of our willing participants and will not read your letters.

All writings will be rolled and bound with string, and therefore, will remain private and illegible as part of the installation. That We Should Be Heirs aims to offer a hallowed space for the participants to release their burdens into the art. As I receive more letters, the installation will continue to evolve. This project focuses on one of the most profound commonalities that we all have—our desire to heal, our constant search for new ways to alleviate burden, and the consistent need to let go of the things that have a way of hardening our hearts.

Where : SDAI and her community partners will host a series of workshops, which may include artists talks and film screenings. All activities pertaining to this project are free and open to the public. Locations and dates for workshops are to be determined. Every letter received will be incorporated into the final installation at SDAI.

When : October - February 2019 : Handwritten letters accepted via postal mail and/or in person during workshops to be part of installation
January - February 2019 : That We Should Be Heirs on display at SDAI
January 18, 2019 (10am - 4am) : Workshop open during SDAI’s 18-hour concert, featuring Eric Satie’s composition, Vexations. (listen here)
*Please consider joining us for this unique experience. It’s going to be amazing!
February __ , 2019 : Deadline to send in writings to be part of installation at SDAI
February 2019 - indefinitely : Letters will be continually accepted for the evolution of the project

Writings are welcomed for an indefinite time. I’ve envisioned this project as an ever-evolving project that requires the hands, voices, and heart of the People. This installation will be on display at San Diego Art Institute fro January - February 2019. From April - May 2019, a portion of the project will travel to Gould Gallery, housed at the University of Washington in Seattle, where I will continue collecting letters to add to the project. Thank you for helping to bring this artwork to life through your heart and your words.

How : Participants who choose to send their writings via postal mail can send them to the address below. (If you must email your letters, please contact me to discuss. Thank you!)

That We Should Be Heirs
c/o Trinh Mai
P.O. Box 1933
Santa Ana, CA 92702


Ideas : The description, “letters”, can be loosely interpreted. All forms of writings will be accepted, and may include :

  • letters

  • notes

  • poems

  • quotes

  • secrets

  • free association

  • short stories

  • lists

  • testimonies

  • lists

  • collection of phrases or words that describe your feelings

  • any text that describes your feelings

Your handwritten contributions may include, but are not limited to, writings about :

  • the love that prevails

  • the loss of love

  • the loss of freedom

  • the fight for freedom

  • the fears that come with potential and experienced loss

  • the grief we’ve encountered

  • the guilt that has weighed upon us

  • the power of forgiveness

  • the need for forgiveness

  • our regrets

  • letters of apology

  • letters of forgiveness

  • the hardship we’ve faced

  • the wounds that we hope to heal

  • how we have/can contribute to the healing of others

  • how others have helped us in our own healing

  • what it means to face our wars

  • how war has affected us

  • why it is important to continue the fight

  • times when we’ve triumphed over hardship

  • moments when we’ve overcome fear

  • the things that we fear and why we fear them

  • letters that confront the things we fear

  • letters to fear itself

  • things and behaviors that help us through our struggle

  • the beautiful people who have touched our lives in profound ways

  • letters to those we’ve lost

  • letters to those who are incarcerated

  • letters of confession

  • letters of encouragement

  • letters that promote healing

  • what healing means to us

  • writings that respond to the poet, Rumi’s, words, “The wound is the place where the light enters you.”


If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I will be happy to address your concerns. We hope you will join us in this experience!