Donna Backues




Artist's Biography

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.

Donna began her career as a graphic designer and then moved to Indonesia in 1989 and lived for 18 years integrating her visual art skills with grass roots development work. She founded a village community health program and a community arts program. Her interest in indigenous art forms led to her co-founding 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.

After returning to the US and finishing her MFA in 2010, Donna taught at the Village of Arts and Humanities, Mural Arts Philadelphia and Fleisher Art Memorial. She has been awarded numerous artist 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.

In 2018, Donna received an MA in Urban Studies with a concentration in Community Arts. Donna currently works at SEAMAAC, Inc. as the Coordinator of Community & Family Wellness serving the immigrant and refugee population in South Philadelphia where her years of cross-cultural experience, Indonesian language ability and community arts experience is regularly put to use.

Along with her community work, Donna continues to work as a studio artist. Four of her paintings are in the Philadelphia Convention Center’s permanent collection. Her public murals can be seen in Philadelphia, Camden New Jersey and in Leeds, England. Her paintings have been collected and exhibited internationally in Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand.

Artist's Statement

Imagined Landscapes

In this body of work, there are references to aerial landscapes, volcanoes, craters, bodies of water and land-based forms originally inspired by my years living in Southeast Asia. Some of my works are imaginary islands like inner landscapes of memory seen from above and others are emotional responses to specific events or historical paintings. They are all created with landscapes in mind.

Selected Exhibitions

Imagined Landscapes, Pennswood Gallery, Newtown, PA

Recollections, McInnis Gallery, Eastern University, St. David’s, PA

Monotypes, Redpoint Gallery, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

Watercolors II, Galeri Bandung, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

Watercolors I, Centre Culturel Francais, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia

Downriver in the Multiverse, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Camden: Past, Present Future Exhibition, Rutgers' Stedman Gallery, Camdem, NJ

West Wing Art Collection, Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA

Art is Ageless, NewCourtland Senior Community at St. Bart's, Philadelphia, PA

Fame, Philadelphia Academy of the Fine Arts Alumni Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Q Artists Group Show, Spiral Q Gallery, Philadelphia, PA

Two Philly Artists, The Monkey & the Elephant, Philadelphia, PA

Holiday Show, Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Fleisher, Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, PA

American Batik Design Exhibit, Alleira Batik, Plaza Indonesia, Jakarta

Group Mural Artists, The Hall, Inliquid at Crane Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Artists, Gallery of the Chambers of Commerce, Philadelphia, PA

American Batik Design Exhibit, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Washington D.C.

Score & Slip, Marguerita Hagan & Pierre Trombert Studios, Philadelphia, PA

Backpack Gallery Installation, 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, PA

Inaugural Exhbition, Studio: Christensen, Philadelphia, PA

Selections from the 109th Annual Student Exhibit, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Women’s Board, Philadelphia, PA

MFA Thesis Exhibition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

The Figure Drawn, Leeds Central Library Gallery, Leeds, England

Pelukis Dari Bandung, Galeri Bandung, W. Java, Indonesia

Tasikmalaya Artist Group, Gedung Kesenian, Tasikmalaya, W. Java, Indonesia

Tasikmalaya Artist Group, Surya Hotel, Pangandaran, W. Java, Indonesia

Selected Works, Southern Illinois University Gallery, Edwardsville, IL

Artist's Bibliography

Interview, “Donna bantu anak kehilangan trauma," Metro TV, Jakarta, Indonesia, July 22.

"Donna bule asal usa ajak anak lawan trauma," RADAR Television News, Tasikmalya, Indonesia

"Murid di Madrasah Ikuti Workshop Art Camp for Health," Radar Tasikmalaya, July 19

"Donna Backues: Seniman Batik Amerika di Philadelphia," Voice of America Feature Video

Chenevert, Bill, "East Passyunk Crossing gets artsy," South Philly Review, March 5, 2015

Interviewed by Kartini Magazine, Jakarta, Indonesia

Iman, Dhania, "Donna Backues Membatik," Voice of America Indonesia, Washington D.C., November 10, 2015

"Seniman Amerika Ini Lestarikan Batik d Negaranya," National Geographic Indonesia, December 9, 2014

"American Artist, Student, and Professor Win Batik Design Competition," The Jakarta Post World News, October 31,2013

"Interview & Demonstration of Water based Monotype Technique with commentary by artist Suhardi Soedarsono" Padjadjaran Television, Bandung, January 21, 2007


Backues, Donna, "Lily and the Batik Dragon", Blurb Publishing

Professional Experience

2011 - 2016
The Village of Arts & Humanities, Philadelphia, PA
Studio Arts Instructor

2012 - 2013
KIPP Academy Charter, Philadelphia, PA
Art Teacher

2010 - 2011
Mural Arts Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA
Lead Teaching Artist

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Summer Art Camp Instructor

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Graduate Assistant in Drawing

1996 - 2007
Bamboo Hill Academy International School, Tasikmalaya, Indonesia
Art Teacher

1990 - 1991
Dana Mulia Orphanage, Bandung West Java, Indonesia
Art Teacher

Awards, Grants, Fellowships & Opportunities

Eastern University, St. David's PA
Outstanding Graduate Thesis Award Honorable Mention

2017 - 2018
Philadelphia International Unity Cup Art Grant, City of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA

Shared Interest Grant for Artists, Elysian Fields and Little Baby's Ice Cream

Center for Emerging Visual Artists, Philadelphia, PA
NewCourtland Fellowship

Call for Pennsylvania Artists, 4 paintings purchased by the Philadelphia Convention Center Authority

Leeway Foundation, Philadelphia, PA
Art & Change Award

American Batik Design Competition 2013, Washington, D.C.
First Place Winner

Red Point Gallery, Bandung, Indonesia
Visiting Artist Demonstration


Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, PA
Cambodian Association

Rutgers University, Camden, NJ
Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts

NewCourtland Center, Philadelphia, PA
LIFE Program

Rutgers University, Camden, NJ
Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts

Bungursari, West Java, Indonesia
SNIT (Sumbangsih Nuansa Indonesia)

2013 - 2018
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Art Futures Program

2013 - 2015
Spiral Q, Philadelphia, PA

Fleisher Art Memorial, Philadelphia, PA
Cambodian Association

Redpoint Gallery & Printmaking Studio, Bandung, Indonesia


Pennsylvania Convention Center, Philadelphia, PA
Dolan/Maxwell Gallery, Philadelphia, PA
Indonesian Embassy, Washington D.C.
Galeri Bandung, Bandung, West Java, Indonesia
Redpoint Studio/Gallery, Bandung, Indonesia


Large mural for the Camden County Historical Museum, Camden, NJ

Redesign & repainting of Lily Yeh's "Magic Garden" mural, Village of the Arts & Humanities, Philadelphia, PA

Window scrim murals for the Septa Substation on 13th & East Passyunk Avenue, Philadelphia, PA

Illustrations for the Shot Tower Park signage for Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, Philadelphia, PA

Illustrated teaching aids for the Elementary School Literacy program in Aceh, Indonesia

Coloring book for Acehnese children during the Asian Tsunami relief efforts, Indonesia

Two murals for Dine China Restaurant, Leeds, UK

Three murals for Little Tokyo Restaurant, Leeds, UK


Eastern University, St. Davids, PA
MA, Urban Studies in Community Arts

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA

Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville, IL
BA, Graphic Design & Studio Art