Beeswax: Clea Felien, Assistant Professor

Assistant Professor Clea Felien started in January. Laura Whitting/The Buzz.
Assistant Professor Clea Felien started in January. Laura Whitting/The Buzz.

Where is your hometown and what’s your education background?

I’m from Minneapolis, Minn. I received my MFA from Vermont College. I went to 13 years of art school – I studied at places that don’t give out degrees. I studied at The Atelier for five years, which is a 19th century portrait painting school. I also studied anatomical drawing in New York at the Art Students League for one year.

How did you end up here and what were your jobs prior to coming to SAU?

I’ve been teaching for at least 15 years. I lived in Minneapolis for a long time and taught there, but wanted something more permanent. I was looking around locally; I didn’t want to go too far from home. There was a position here for tenure track in painting and drawing. I taught adjunct and was a part of the community in Minneapolis, but I was so impressed with the work of the faculty here, as well as the student work, that I decided to apply.

What do you like best about teaching/being at SAU?

I really love the students and the department. They are great, all of them. Everybody gets along, which is not always the case. Human beings are complicated, but this department is wonderful and works really well together as a team, which I feel is the core of your job – your colleagues. What keeps you stable is really a good department because that’s something you always fall back on. I feel like I know teaching and am good at it, but you also want a base for your life as a teacher, which is your colleagues, and it’s really good base here.

From that, I can learn from them about teaching and try new things and get excited about introducing things to students. I feel like after this year, I’m really starting to get to know the student body. Every college has a different flavor and culture, and I’m really happy here. The students are mature and respectful and careful. They’re good kids who are very smart. I don’t have a lot of loose cannons. When I was teaching at predominately art school, there were some loose cannons.

What are your goals to accomplish in your new position?

I would like to take my students abroad and am working right now to get them to different places, possibly China. I’d also like to get students shows in coffee shops locally and get their work up in the community. These are things I’ve just started. Also, possibly working with the philosophy department and talking about philosophy of art.


Philosophy is a huge interest of mine. I am madly in love with Jacques Derrida. I love cooking. I have two lives—one as a painter and artist and one of a professor. There’s not a lot of room for anything else.

Favorite artists?

Gerhard Richter, Lucian Freud, Jenny Saville, Mamma Andersson, and Luc Tuymans.

Advice for students?

Try to love what you do. All information you’ll get at school is valuable; so don’t try to fight it. Instead, love it and make it fun. That makes it go so much easier.


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