Karen Cleveland was born in Atlanta and spent summers on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in Northwestern Montana, living with family. She is of Cherokee and Muskogee descent. After graduating high school, she moved west to attend college and to be closer to the Reservation. She earned her undergraduate degree in Anthropology, Linguistics and Native American Studies from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. Afterwards graduation, she moved to the Reservation to assist with language revitalization and worked with at risk youth and elders on cross-generational
and cross-cultural art projects. In 2008, she returned to Atlanta to attend graduate school and earned her MFA from Georgia State University. She now teaches full time at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. She works in an array of media, including sound, sculpture, installations, film, drawing and painting. Her work investigates intersections of nature, technology, cultural heritage, racial and cultural identity and spirituality. She also engages students with the local community by facilitating environmental and community collaborative art projects, and the large Appalachian State
community by working with other departments to create an interdisciplinary dialogue.
Her work has featured in New American Paintings and in Conceptions Southwest Magazine. She has shown both locally and nationwide and attended residencies in New Mexico, Costa Rica, North Georgia, North Carolina, Utah and Vermont. She also facilitates public and collaborative art projects with refugees and other at-risk populations. Most recently she has shown work at the Turchin Center for the Arts, ArtSpace of Raleigh, Modern and Contemporary Museum of Art of Georgia, Georgia State University, Penland School of Craft and participated in a show associated with Art
Basal Miami, 2012. She has recently been honored as a distinguished fellow at
Hambidge Residency program receiving a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.