July 31, 2020

Seeing Clearly

You may remember we introduced you to Lauren Mills in the October 2017 Herald. Most recently her art was featured as part of the #wishyouknew youth mental health campaign, where her artwork was placed on buses throughout Michigan’s Washtenaw County to spark honest and supportive conversations about mental health between youth and adults.

Currently a student at Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design at the University of Michigan, Lauren has worked professionally as an artist since the young age of twelve. She was born with an eye condition called Nystagmus, a disease where the eyes are constantly wiggling. This has rendered her legally blind but hasn’t stopped her love of art.  

“Ever since I was little,” she says, “I loved drawing. I remember I got in trouble for drawing on the walls with a marker! My mom says I have been creating art since I was 10 months old.”  

At age six, Lauren accompanied her mother, Leah Chapman, to a college art class she was attending. The professor noted young Lauren’s excellent ability to see perspective. Leah was blown away. “How is it possible that she’s able to do this, this thing called art that takes — in my mind’s eye — visual capacity to do well?” she wondered. She realized her daughter’s talent was “beyond human ability”; it had to be a gift from God.  

 Lauren Mills
Lauren Mills

Lauren’s vision disability has actually aided her creations. “I look closely at everything, so I see every detail,” she says. 

During this moment of heightened fear and racial unrest, Lauren decided to create a portrait called “For Freedom.” The print depicts Toussaint Louverture who led the only successful slave revolt in the Americas and freed the enslaved of the French colony Saint-Domingue, which became Haiti. He transformed the colony into a self-governing country, ruled by former slaves. “Right now in our country, I believe we must rise up and fight for freedom, and for our right to life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Take inspiration and strength from those that have come before and keep fighting the good fight!” 

To help facilitate freedom for those who have been incarcerated, Lauren is donating 50 percent of the proceeds to Liaise, Inc. (Facebook), a local organization to help assist Black males with reintegration back into society after being incarcerated (juvenile and adult). Liaise provides basic needs (food, clothing, access to transportation, and monetary resources for housing/utilities, etc.) and aides them in their educational and employment pursuits, as well as participates in advocacy efforts within the judicial system to help these youth and men remain in the community and not become another statistic adding to the recidivism data. 

Debbie Michel is assistant director of Communication at the Lake Union Conference.