Jessica Fenlon's teaching practice


I started teaching while earning my MFA. Since 2008, it has been a privilege to have been trained by two different amazing corporations to provide Socratic-method, outcome-measurable instruction customized to the learner. In 2017 I started bringing these skills to art content, and publishing posts about teaching digital art practice on Medium.

ART316/412 Interactive and Multimedia Art Production at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

This class focuses on interactive technologies and aesthetics in contemporary art. How can interactive strategies meaningfully engage the viewer? Students learn basic software development and real-time computational methods. MaxMSP+Jitter is their primary development environment.

Students produce art objects and installations that ask us to interact with cameras and structured light (Kinects) for body- and motion-tracking, and/or Arduino sensors for motion or other tracking, and/or microphones for amplitude tracking, and/or MIDI and USB devices to control digital elements.

Other conversations include the role invited by the viewer in the work, and what that might mean; accessabilty and bias in the built world; distribution potential of this creation platform; and the challenges exhibiting work to an audience alienated by digital technology.

Upper-level students learn how to develop their own new media studio practice, target research to take deep dives into niches of MaxMSP, and more.

ART 118 labs at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

In these practicums, students explore concepts underlying digital culture by learning foundation skills in Adobe Bridge, Photoshop, and Illustrator. Students who complete the course will be able to use these sofwares to draw, composite, touch up, invent, design, animate, develop their work after critique (accept redirection) and more, using a vocabulary of skills expected by instructors in upper-level courses at UW-Milwaukee.

holding the fire

Some of the art I make has invovled observing painful aspects of the human experience for long periods of time, sometimes years.

I grew up listening to doctors discuss treating patients; cancer, death, new babies, car accidents, gunshot wounds, all were part of my landscape of 'normal' from when I was very young. My sociologist godfather worked first with heroin addicts in the 60's and 70's in San Francisco, and later with the gay community there as it struggled to figure out why people were dying horrifying deaths, and how to prevent transmission of the disease. His contributions to training people to not catch AIDS saved lives. I think of him often as I read about the opioid epidemic facing rural America, and the powerlessness that follows discussion of that epidemic in the media.

We can only make contributions like Pat Biernacki's if we pay attention to people in their pain, learn how to listen to them without judging or getting in the boat with them. How to listen to the world's suffering while also not being overwhelmed by it, particularly in a world digitally connected to bad news? How can artists - those too-sensitive souls prone to destructive ways of coping - hold close to tough material without harming the self?


In late summer 2017 I developed a tutorial series in glitch, at the request of a busy college student. Teaching onesself these skills using online tutorials can take a huge amount of time; I've filtered out a lot of noise and sharpened each activity to its technical core, while providing links to theorists and glitch artists who laid the groundwork for this art form in the '00's. Lessons introduce a technically-demanding creative toolset quickly. In a world of apps it 's easy to forget the value of workflow, aesthetics, and sharp editorial skills.

Lessons include:

DISPLACE : databending
FRAMES : approaches to glitching gif files
CAPTURE #GlitchInTheWild : screencapture & DRM glitch
CODEC : datamoshing / video glitch
PROCESSING : scripted glitching; #postGlitch explained
OVERLOAD : make your video card barf out cool art
LIVE : MaxMSP, QuartzComposer - #postGlitch
APPS : #postGlitch #tacticalGlitch

pad thai theory of glitch, created for the tutorial, gives it some perspective.

This content has moved to my patreon. Join me there to access it!

tutoring Processing

I started thinking about "how to teach artists how to code" after hearing feedback from a handful of visual artists who took a Processing class in their BFA or MFA programs. Most of the artists I have taught are kinesthetic learners. Some had information processing disorders that serve their creative productivity well, but detract from working with computers. Others can find the shift from 'language as having meaning' to 'command language' very, very difficult.

I teach coding as a practice, equipping the artist with the reading and witing skills to create and edit coding tools in Processing. In a wandering guided exploration, students learn this programming language and make art.

Learning in a tutoring relationship, the student does not have the pressure of "mastering x number of elements of a curriculum" in order to "get a grade". It's all about building a skill to use independantly, to acheive your goals.

email me! I have a room for students in my Processing tutoring practice. If you are interested in learning to code with the support of a master tutor, email me! We can discuss your needs and goals, and the cost of studying with me.