Iris Donnelly began studying photography at the University of Rhode Island in the summer of 1985 with Stephen Brigidi. She has two diplomas from the Universite de Caen in Normandy, France and a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University. After teaching French and Spanish for six years, she spent most of her professional career as a Bilingual Special Education Resource Teacher with the Providence School Department.
Iris has been awarded several grants by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts including an Artist Project Grant for the portfolio Photographs of the Handicapped and another for In Nicaragua With Providence's Sister City Project, a document of the city's role in the construction of a school and health clinic in Niquinohomo during the Contra War.
Most recently, she is the curator and participating photographer of In Cuba With Witness for Peace that includes exhibits at Hera Gallery, VanVessem Gallery and the AS220 Project Space (May 2016). These latest shows also included a Cuban film series at Hera and two powerpoint presentations at the International House of Rhode Island and the North Kingstown Public Library. An Arts Access Grant was awarded to Witness for Peace and the International House of Rhode Island for the Cuban events.
Some of her other Latin American photography has been shown at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Newport Art Museum, and Atrium Gallery. When Kara Walker was invited to curate an exhibit at the Providence Art Club, she selected a photograph by Iris Donnelly. She is currently working on several portfolios of recent work from France and one entitled Landscape of Lemon City (Little Haiti, Miami).