Visual artist and writer Donald Fels is active in the U.S., Europe and Asia. He holds a B.A. in Art, History and Literature from Wesleyan University, and an M.A. Ed. with Honors from City University where he was the Board of Governor’s Presidential Scholar. He also studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and the University of Washington. Fels has been a Fulbright Fellow to Italy and a Fulbright Senior Research Scholar to India. He has twice received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts. He’s a grant recipient of the Jack Straw Foundation, Artist Trust, the Ferguson Foundation, the Goodfellow Foundation, the Ella West Freeman Foundation, and the Washington Council on the Humanities. He was a Whiteley Fellow at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Marine Laboratory from 2002-06, and a Civita fellow of the Northwest Institute in 2012. Fels has received multiple grants and commissions from the Puget Sound regional arts commissions and from ArtsWA, the state arts commission.
Museums exhibited at include: Chicago Cultural Center, Seattle Art Museum, Center on Contemporary Art, Cultural Development Authority Gallery, Tacoma Art Museum, Bellevue Art Museum, Henry Art Gallery, Northwest Museum of Art and Culture, Museum of Northwest Art, Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna, Iron Gallery at the University of Washington Tacoma, Bank of America Gallery, Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, Wing Luke Museum, Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art, Penang Museum (Malaysia), DeVos Art Museum, State University of New York (SUNY) Potsdam, University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), University of Puget Sound, Lewis and Clark College, Cornish College for the Arts, SUNY Plattsburgh, Bellevue College, Seattle Pacific, and University of Washington. He participated in the 2010 Venice Architectural Biennale, Prospect 2- the American Biennale in New Orleans in 2012, and in 2015, India’s biennale, held in Kochi, Kerala. His work is in collections worldwide.
Fels inaugurated artist residencies at Seattle’s Museum of History and Industry, the Bellevue Art Museum, the City of Hope Cancer Research Hospital in L.A., and was the first visual artist in residence at Cornish College for the Arts. In 2013 he was the first non-French artist in residence in the Paris in-situ program, and returned to the program in 2014 and 2015. In 2015, he helped inaugurate the artist in residence in Machine Intelligence at Google, where he was their first artist in residence. In 2016 Fels was artist in residence at Clark House Initiative in Bombay.
He has undertaken a number of projects following the international trade in commodities, resulting in work in a wide range of media: sculpture, paintings, installations, photography, theater, and book manuscripts. He continues to theorize and make art about the relationship between the exchange of materials, ideas and culture around the world. After years considering the human role in getting commodities to market, he is now focusing on migrants themselves as an international commodity. He is developing projects that aim to make clear their essential humanity.
From 1995-2015, Fels was a trustee of the Henry Art Gallery. He has written about art and culture for The Seattle Times, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, The Seattle Weekly, City Arts, The SF Chronicle, the LA Times, and Le Monde. He was founding President of the Board of Directors of REFLEX, the art magazine. He writes regularly for ARCADE and for crosscut.com.