Lev Mills – Paints his History throughout Atlanta



Lev Mills leaves a visual history lesson throughout Atlanta in places like Hartsfield Jackson International Airport and the Ashby Street MARTA station.  His work hangs in the High Museum of Art and in many homes throughout the city.  He has made history – especially in the city of Atlanta.

Mills calls himself a “Constructionist.”  “I create by building ideas up, tearing down and rebuilding again until the subject matter, design, and color have been integrated into a unified visual statement.  My intentions are not to shock but to move my audience.  It does not matter to me if it is a positive or negative reaction.  My symbolism is not to confuse, teach, preach or analyze, but to stimulate the observer’s imagination to draw a conclusion,” says the artist, Lev Mills.

When Lev Mills was a 12th grader in the University High School, the demonstration school at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee, he was blessed to recognize his life’s purpose.  He knew he wanted to be an artist.  He pursued his dream at FAMU, with the assistance of a track scholarship, and graduated with a B.A. degree in Art Education.  With clarity of purpose in his life and a determination to achieve, he received a Ford Foundation European Study & Travel Fellowship and studied in London and Paris.  He also holds a Master of Arts and the Master of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin and did post graduate study in London, England and Paris, France.  Concurrently, a major exhibition of his works was held at the American Embassy in London in spring, 1971.  Working with the U. S. embassies of London and Paris, Lev did an exhibition and lecture tour to East, West, North Africa and the Middle East.

Returning to the U.S. in 1973, Lev settled in Atlanta and taught at Clark College. He was selected to design his first public work for the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) project at the Ashby Street Station.  His three murals, which were fabricated in Mexico, were completed and the facility was dedicated in 1979.

Though he felt it was time to work full-time as an artist, he was persuade to teach at Spelman College; he felt at home at Spelman and worked there for 30 years – serving  14 of those years as Art Department Chair.  “The longevity of my college teaching has allowed me the opportunity to connect with many talented  students who have given me credit for encouraging them to use their studies and hone their artistic talents into careers such as teachers, graphic designers, fine arts professors, and gallery owners.  There is a special connection with these former art student and these bonds have proven to be much stronger and longer lasting than I ever could have imagined,” said Mills

Some of Lev’s awards and honors are:  The Most Creative Development Award, Florida A & M University; and Outstanding Art Graduate Fellowship, University of Wisconsin.  He was honored as the recipient of:  The Bronze Jubilee Award for Cultural Achievement, City of Atlanta; the Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts, City of Atlanta;  and the Distinguished Graduate Hall of Fame, Florida President’s Teaching Excellence Awards.

Mills’ work has appeared in more than 100 major group and one-man exhibitions in Great Britain, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, and the USA.  His works are in public and private collections such as:  The African American Museum, Boston; The British Museum; The Victoria and Albert Museum, London; The Modern Museum of Art, New York; The Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; and The High Museum, Atlanta.

Three of Lev’s commissions include:  the marble floor and fountain of Atlanta City Hall’s Atrium (1989); A 64-foot tall sculpture, designed in collaboration with Charnelle Holloway, for Concourse E at Atlanta Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (1995); and a glass mosaic for the courtyard of the Atlanta Board of Education (2004).

He retired as full professor from Spelman College in 2009.  His latest work involves cataloging his art and collaborating on a publication:  Artist Lev Mills:  A Catalog Raisonne’ and Biographical Sketch, 2010.

This is a limited edition, privately published hardcover book.

Lev and his wife, Joyce, live in Southwest Atlanta.  They have one son, Lev-Kahmel.

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