September 19, 2003 by

Mildred Thompson


Categories: Artists, Education, Musicians

Mildred Jean Thompson, an accomplished artist, teacher and blues singer, died on Sept. 1 from cancer. She was 68.
Thompson attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., then studied art at the Hamburg Art Academy in Germany. Trained in European abstract expressionism, Thompson was best known for painting in bright hues on large canvases. Her work has been showcased in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and at the Brooklyn Museum.
“Mildred devoted her life to Abstract Expressionism, one of the few African-American female artists trained in that European tradition. She produced an awesome body of work, 5,000 pieces ranging from complex oil paintings to delightful pen-and-ink drawings,” said her friend, Don Roman.
After spending many years in Europe, Thompson moved to Atlanta in 1986 to teach at Spelman, Morris Brown and Agnes Scott colleges, and at the Atlanta College of Art. She received the Distinguished Artist Award from the Atlanta Chapter of Howard University in 1982.
In the evenings and on her lunch breaks, Thompson also sang and played guitar with the band, We Do Blues, which performs in Georgia restaurants and parks.

5 Responses to Mildred Thompson

  1. mack galloway

    mildred was a personal friend of mine, as well as donna & I wanted you to know that I have an exibition in Hammond indiana at the Ophiliea Steen family, health, & art family center.
    She inspired me to be the very best Artist that I possibly be. for that I Love her for it!!

  2. Gary N. Rexroad

    In the 1970’s and into the Nineties an art community existed in Ybor City (the Latin Quater in the ten cent town of Tampa). Mildred was doing wood sculptures in her studio on Seventh Avenue at that time. I loved to stop by the studio and talk to her and see what she was working on and the the mind behind the mask. She enjoyed what she did and reveled in it. And that is very special. My friend Gilbert Flores, an architect though Mildred was very special. And I admire her for her zest for life and the pursuit of all it embodies.

  3. Mary Lemley-Miller

    I was just thinking about Mildred and googled her name, only to find that we have lost her shining spirit 3 years ago.Her strength as woman and artist was inspiring. She helped me as a young woman artist to see clearly that the Path Needed to be Walked. From showing me the right way to hold a hammer and not to be afraid of power tools – to long talks on feminism and and the soul. This was all in that time of Ybor City in the 70’s. She encouraged me on my path as an artist – and my path out of Tampa to NYC, which in the end, has lead me to my home now in London. Her big laugh and strong arms confidently holding big tools stay with me as a visual picture of the woman who was tender, political and fiercely creative. She will always remain a beacon in my heart.

  4. Em Alvarez

    I also had the great privilege of knowing Mildred in that Ybor time. I was officially “apprecticed” to her through the Arts Council, and so, spent quite alot of time at her studio. Mildred, in some ways, gave me a brand new pair of eyes, as far as learning to see and experience life. I think she did that for many people.
    Learning to “see” as an artist AND as a human, walking this earthly path.
    Mildred could make a day shine. She embodied that line from an old Joni Mitchell song “we’ll put on the day and wear it til the night comes”.
    I ended up reading James Baldwin because of Mildred, and so many other authors, too.
    So much to read, so much to see and experience, in this thing called life.
    I regret not having gone to visit her in Atlanta.
    I enjoyed hearing her sing with We Do Blues.
    There is an old board fence that the sky peeks through, that I drive by each day on my way home. It never fails to remind me of Mildred’s watercolors.

  5. Sayah

    Missing you today Millie.
    I met Mildred Thompson and Donna Jackson in 1999 and had the pleasure of being accepted into their home, hearing their music and Mildred’s many fabulous stories. She took my young daughter up to her studio for art lessons, they called themselves her fairy grandmothers. Even now my daughter can remember Mildred’s purple hair, skinny cigarettes and enormous record collection. I feel so blessed to have known her.
    I did not know her as a powerful groundbreaking artist, just as a lovely, caring person who shone with such light…

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