She journeys from Pelham Art Center teenage intern to teacher and noted artist


Since its inception in 1969, the Pelham Art Center has strived to inspire and engage students of the arts with interactive workshops and classes. This is reflected by the abundance of work from teenage artists adorning the art center walls. 

Rebecca Mills is an art historian originally from New Rochelle who has led numerous workshops and classes catering to children of all ages at the center. Most recently, she taught a flag-making workshop July 29 for the Haitian Rhythms and Dances festival. She also teaches at Monroe College and the Katonah Museum of Art.

Currently, she instructs in modernism and contemporary art, specifically mixed media. Her favorite types of art are surrealism, impressionism and baroque. She appreciates artists like Mickalene Thomas, whose work expresses feminist themes, and she herself tries to incorporate feminism into her own art.

“Today, I was teaching the kids about Derrick Adams, who is also a multidisciplinary artist, and he does monumental collages and sculptures that are bright and colorful,” said Mills in an interview July 14. “As I grew as an artist, I became more interested in feminism and the perspective of a black woman, which reflects in my artwork and writings.”

During her childhood, Mills was entranced by cartoons, comics and manga, which she credits with attracting her to the arts. She was also an avid reader and writer who studied painting and creative writing at Lehman College in the CUNY system.

“Lehman was a stepping stone in my life because it was completely different from any other kind of environment I have ever been in,” Mills said. “I hated it there for the first semester because I was not used to the culture in the Bronx and thought everyone was angry all the time. But my second semester and so on, I was more used to the culture and was experimenting with different kinds of classes and fields and having an amazing time.”

Earlier, while attending New Rochelle High School, Mills focused her work on gay rights, feminism and “bizarre teenage fantasies,” often missing classes to spend time painting in the studios. She was vice president of the Gay-Straight Alliance, and she used her painting skills to protest the illegality of gay marriage.

“My grades weren’t great because I always cut classes to paint,” said Mills. “I lived in those studios. When I was home, I would sketch, create, paint and collage works of art in my room.”

In 2005, at the age of 14, Rebecca became an intern at the Pelham Art Center. Thirteen years later, she now works as an arts educator at the center and an artist whose artwork is featured in exhibits in downtown New Rochelle. She is also a distinguished poet and playwright whose work has appeared at two CUNY Theater Festivals and numerous poetry readings.

“I intend to spend the rest of my life pursing a further career as an instructor of the arts, write about art and art history and be a painter.”