Selected Projects

2017-Present Olive Trees

2014-Present Ceramics

2005-2015 Red Earth

2004-2014 Waterlines Project

2014 Paris

"L’artiste évoque son rôle d’« outsider » dans le milieu scolaire du département avec enthousiasme et acuité."

Le Monde

2011 House/Atlas – New Orleans

"A love letter to the shotgun house"

– Jen Graves, The Stranger

2005 Vasco da Gama

"For more than fifteen years, conceptual artist Donald Fels has been making art that explores global trade relations. Because he is an artist, rather than a political scientist or sociologist, he approaches these issues in a thoroughly non-linear manner. His current project is a delightful sort of intellectual free-fall surrounding the history of India’s contact with the West."

– Frances de Vuono, Artweek, February 2007

2003 City of Hope

For some reason or other the public health agencies here were not overly excited about the TB threat. Ironically enough, when they did eventually develop an interest, more emphasis was placed on combating TB in cattle than in human beings.

– Samuel Golter, The City of Hope

2002 Courtland Place

“Fels’ residency might be called research and development, in business terms, according to Barbara Goldstein, manager of public art for the Seattle Arts Commission…It’s a calculated risk, based on collaborative experience and commitment. It’s not for every artist, said Fels. He calls it, “starting from zero.”

How do you quantify the payoff for the city’s investment in Fels’s residency at Courtland Place? Even when the hillclimb is complete and the children’s finds are catalogued and displayed along with the neatly typed stories of their elders, it won’t result in a flow of tourist dollars. There will be no water views, celebrity art works, or historic birthplaces to put the city on the travel map.

Maybe the results could be measured in terms of lower crime statistics, numbers of resident trips up and down the hillclimb, or numbers of families with children on Courtland Place. Cities are built with neighborhoods and communities of all descriptions. In that sense, investments in Courtland Place and other neighborhoods in Seattle may bring the biggest payoff of all- a healthy, thriving city with a place for everyone.”

– Clair Enlow, Seattle Daily Journal of Commerce, Oct. 23, 2002

2001 Bellevue Art Museum

“Thanks to Don Fels, artist in residence, for asking all the right questions and all the wrong questions, all at the right time.”

– Brian Wallace, Chief Curator, Bellevue Art Museum, “Luminous” 2001

1998 Alki/Duwamish Culture Trail

The West Seatle Culture Trail gives physical form to those beautiful words spoken so long ago. The relationship of memories as they are attached to place is the primary focus of this project. Collaborating with the three artists, a whole community has engaged in remembering the history of this place. The act of sharing memories has imbued this art work with a pluralist view that will allow generations of viewers to share in the collective memory of the West Seattle community.

– Gail Tremblay, Voices of Community 2001

1997 Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)

Whenever animals live crowded together, risk of disease increases. Just as feed-lot operators provide steers with antibiotic-laced grain, salmon farmers spike their fish chow with drugs to prevent or treat outbreaks of bacterial diseases. That can promote growth of strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and not just in the pens. Resistant organisms have been found near Japanese fish farms, and the antibiotics themselves have been found months later in sediments underlying the farms. The salmon farms thus could lead to super-tough strains of the diseases already present in North Pacific waters.

– Carla Helfferich, Geophysical Insitute, University of Alaska Fairbanks

1995 Boeing

Symbolically shaped expectations play a central role in the innovation process. New technologies are invariably like newborn babes, coming to fruition only after a long period of nurturing. Within a firm or organization, support for a particular developmental path depends on expectations of future performance, not on existing practical benefits: if such benefits already existed, there would be no need to fund research and development.

– Eric Schatzberg, Symbolic Culture and Technological Change: The Cultural History of Aluminum as an Industrial Material.

1993 Sime/Darby and Rubber Research Institute

I offer an ethnography of global connection. The term ‘global’ here is not a claim to explain everything in the world at once. Instead, it introduces a way of thinking about the history of social projects, including ‘business’ and ‘local empowerment’. First such projects grow from spatially far-flung collaborations and interconnections. Second, cultural diversity is not banished from these interconnections; it is what makes them-and all their particularities-possible. Cultural diversity brings a creative friction to global connections.

Friction, Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing, Princeton University Press, 2005