Arlene Renken was born and raised in Upper Michigan and is descendant of Finnish immigrants. She was educated at the University of Wisconsin at Madison (BS, MS, and PhD). She is a K-12 Coordinator teacher in Stephens Point, Wisconsin. Her dissertation concerned symbolic ethnicity in art and examined rug making among immigrant Finns. She has one daughter and three grandchildren. She considers herself "primarily a visual artist." Her paintings are hung in galleries in Duluth and in many private collections. She believes that all arts are related and provide different avenues for self-expression. "My family and Finnish heritage," she says, "are important parts of my life."