Julie A. Downey (AJ Viola) is a writer and visual artist in Chicago who often combines text and image; she recently began accompanying musicians with photographic projections.
"Dying and Decay" is a collaboration with Chicago musician Tristan James and Los Angeles screenwriter Denise Cruz. Some of AJ's photos shown in this piece will also appear as album art for Tristan James's upcoming CD.
Julie currently teaches in elementary schools, working with Columbia College to integrate the arts into curriculum and after school programs. Julie has taught writing, photography, collage, photojournalism and magazine editing.
Students have included hospitalized children and eating disorder patients, children affected by HIV, and women living in a domestic violence shelter; and youth involved with Gallery 37, After School Matters, Young Chicago Authors, East Village Youth Program and Evanston Arts Center.
Julie believes that the arts can be an agent for social change, and has led artistic projects that gave musicians and spoken word artists the means to be heard on a CD and at live performances. She has also been interviewed for her activist work on CAN-TV, Indymedia Video, WZRD, and the United Front podcast.