About the Artist

About the Artist

Donna Backues has a BA in Studio Art and Graphic Design from Southern Illinois University, an MFA from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and an MA in Urban Studies & Community Arts, from Eastern University.

After finishing her undergraduate degree in 1985, Donna worked as a graphic designer for several years. In 1989, she moved to Indonesia and lived for 18 years raising two children and working alongside her husband in a grass roots development organization. For the first couple of years, Donna invested time in language and culture learning as well as painting, drawing and learning the Javanese technique of batik at a small home industry near her home.

During her last 10 years in Southeast Asia, she founded a village community health program and a community arts program. Her interest in indigenous art forms led to her starting a handicraft non-profit supporting local artisans in West Java as well as designing batik textiles and woven products for export. She also created illustrations, manuals, and teaching aids for development projects including materials used in relief efforts during the aftermath of the 2004 Asian Tsunami.

Besides teaching for a time at the Village of Arts and Humanities and the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, Donna has been awarded numerous residencies through the Philadelphia Art Museum’s Delphi Art Futures and Art Partners program, Spiral Q and Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts. In 2013 Donna won first prize in the American Batik Design Competition, in 2014 she was awarded the Art & Change Grant by the Leeway foundation and in 2017 she was awarded the NewCourtland Fellowship.

Donna works in her home studio as a painter and illustrator, is active in teaching artist residencies and in community arts within her own South Philly neighborhood and throughout Philadelphia. Her murals can be seen in Philadelphia, Camden, NJ and in Leeds, England. Four of her paintings are in the collection of the Philadelphia Convention Center Gallery and her paintings have been collected and exhibited nationally and internationally in Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.