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201 W. Mifflin Street
Madison, WI

Artist-in-Residence, Jenie Gao

Jenie Gao // Jan - Feb 2017


Jenie Gao is an artist who believes that creativity and hands-on learning are crucial to how we connect with the world and others around us, and how we learn to express our stories so that we may be heard. To honor this belief, Jenie will be creating an installation for the ceiling of the children’s library, about the stories we tell ourselves and of the cycles we repeat.

The installation will consist of a flock of larger-than-life migratory birds that are all native to Wisconsin and made from repurposed clothing. She is asking community members for help with three things: for donations of fabric (thinner fabrics with less stretch are best!) through December and January; for help carving three woodblocks to print patterns on the fabric; and for help cutting the fabric patterns for the birds.

Jenie has chosen to make something for the children’s library as a nod to her own childhood. The public library was her most consistent “daycare,” and she spent countless hours there after school, before her mom got off work to take her home. During that time, Jenie immersed herself in books about nature, human history, and the arts. The library was a place to learn about the world and imagine different possibilities. Some things don’t change, and Jenie continues to draw parallels across generations and relationships between people and the environment. Like birds who fly in unison to counter the wind’s resistance, we as people can choose which cycles we perpetuate. Will we choose to lead by example and teach others to lead as well? Will we share when there’s abundance, gather when things are scarce, and face difficult winds together?

During this residency, Jenie invites people to get their hands involved in transforming the old into the new. She hopes to encourage us to look up and wonder what we could accomplish if we moved with the purpose of rising together.


Come learn how to create your own woodblock print. Jenie will be leading workshops that cover how to create your image, carve your block, and print on paper and fabric. Feel free to bring a t-shirt and wear something you don’t mind getting a little inky!

Wednesday Workshop Dates (up to 10 per class)

Foam Printing: An Abridged Course

January 4 from 6-8 pm  - register here
February 15 from 6-8pm  - register here

Woodblock Carving + Printing Workshops

January 11 from 5-8 pm  - register here
January 25 from 5-8 pm  - register here
February 22 from 5-8 pm  - register here


Come help on the project! Jenie will be asking for help to create three large woodblocks and to cut the fabric patterns for the finished project. No experience necessary. Jenie will walk you through the step she’s on in the process, so this is a great way to get a taste of woodcarving before attending a full workshop, or to get your hands involved in the making of this fantastic installation.

Wednesdays, Thursdays, + Saturdays from 12-6pm in the Bubbler Room

January: 18, 19, 25, 26, and 28 from 12-6 pm
February: 1, 2, 4, 8, 9, 11, 15, 16, 18, 22, 23, 24, and 25 from 12-6 pm

About the Artists

Jenie Gao is an artist specializing in woodcuts, ink drawings, and allegorical storytelling. She sees her work as a teaching tool, a way to challenge conventional wisdom and invite others to do the same. She believes that creativity is how we learn empathy, resilience, and how to envision and live up to other possibilities. Her work across industries has made her a firm believer in different disciplines working together to inform and help one another.

Jenie received her BFA in Printmaking/Drawing from Washington University in St. Louis. Following her studies, Jenie worked in education and nonprofit before going into commercial printing and the pursuit of a career in lean manufacturing: the reduction of waste in business operations.

Two years ago, Jenie left her full-time job to pursue her own business, as an artist, consultant, and proponent of the maker movement. In 2015, she completed two art residencies in Argentina and Chile. She has since continued to collaborate across the worlds of business, the arts, and nonprofit. As a freelancer and consultant, Jenie lends her skills to the causes she cares about. Her recent clients include Planned Parenthood and Artists Working in Education.

Jenie’s love of learning and the arts has a long history. She spent much of her childhood in the public library, and in general left to her own devices without a babysitter, to figure out how things worked and what she was interested in, and to learn about the world through reading, writing, and making art. She considers herself to be a benefactor of having access to the public library. Additionally, because of her previous work in education and manufacturing, Jenie believes that defunding the arts and removing creativity from schools has resulted in our current social, economic, and political divides. She believes that the emerging maker movement and “Buy Local” campaigns are signs that people want to know how things are made and to be connected to those who make the things they use. By valuing creativity in our culture, we can reforge the link between what we think, what we produce, and how we find fulfillment.