Ginnie & Drew Mills, A Shared Biography

E. Andrew Mills (Drew) and Virginia Ward Mills (Ginnie) exhibited extensively throughout their lives, especially in the Capital District of New York State and Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Ginnie and Drew worked in their garret studio in their Schenectady home for over forty years. They built a studio onto their outer cape home in 1985. From that point on, they worked half of the year in each studio.

Drew was born in San Francisco in 1928, and moved as a toddler to Albany, NY, where he attended public schools, prior to entering Syracuse University as an art major. Ginnie was born in Jamaica, NY in 1930, lived in and attended public schools in Hollis, NY as a young girl, and in Towson, MD, prior to entering Syracuse University as an art major. Drew and Ginnie met in a painting class at Syracuse.  Drew received his BFA from Syracuse University in 1950, Ginnie received hers a year later, and they married that summer. While Drew was briefly in the service in Maryland, Ginnie began her teaching career in Bel Air High School in Maryland. Drew accepted a teaching position to teach art in the Waterloo, NY school district where they moved in 1950, started a family (Pete Mills, Dan Mills, Martha Mills Burns) and made art. In 1957, drew accepted a position to teach high school in the Mohonasen school district in suburban Schenectady, NY. 

In 1964, Drew accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor at Elmira College (NY), and Ginnie accepted a full-time job teaching art in the Elmira School District, so the family moved to Elmira. Although they only lived there for two years this was an important time for both of them professionally: Drew added college level teaching to his experiences, and Ginnnie added a full-time job developing a curriculum and teaching middle school art. It was also an important period for the growth and development of their work. Drew's work became larger and more adventuresome; he approached painting more experimentally, began a decades-long investigation of the plastic qualities of the new media (at the time), acrylic paints, and also with sculpture, especially in clay (all supported by access to college studios). Ginnie enrolled in graduate painting classes, started working larger, and began to develop her mature painting style (see works from the 1960s).

In 1966 Drew began a career in art supervision with the New York State Education Department in Albany. The family returned to the Capital District, and moved to Regent St. in Schenectady, where they set up their studio on the third floor. Ginnie accepted a half-time position teaching elementary art in the Niskayuna School District, a position she held until the early 1980s. She was a highly respected teacher whose students learned, grew, and made some exceptional art. In Drew's NY State Education position, he supervised, advised and wrote curriculum for art from kindergarten through graduate school for New York State public schools. Drew was also founding director of the School of Visual Arts, NY State Summer School of the Arts. In the mid-1980s, he was appointed Chief of the Bureau of Arts, Music and Humanities Education for the NYS Education Department, a position he held until retirement in 1989. He also taught art and art education courses periodically, at schools including SUNY Buffalo and the College of St. Rose in Albany.

Drew and Ginnie raised three children, Pete, Dan, and Martha. During their childhood, the family frequently camped, often in the Adirondacks or on outer Cape Cod, plus the family spent one memorable summer, 1968, camping across Canada and returning through the US.  In 1980, Ginnie and Drew bought a home on outer Cape Cod, and within several years they built an attached studio onto the house.

Ginnie and Drew had more than forty solo and two-person shows from the mid-1960s until 2007.  Many of these were biennial solo or two person exhibitions in which they exhibited together at the Oakroom Artists Gallery in Schenectady. Additionally, they had informal annual exhibitions at the Mills Studio in Wellfleet, MA between 1986 and 2006, and at institutions in Upstate New York. Their work was included in many group exhibitions in the Capital District, and throughout New York State and at institutions on Cape Cod. (See their resumes for more information.)

In addition to the visual arts, Ginnie’s long-time interests included music and the performing arts.  With the Schenectady Light Opera Company, she worked in most areas of production.  She was a well-regarded scenic designer, scenic painter, properties chair, and co-chair of the playbill. Both Ginnie and Drew were also producers, officers and served several terms on the board of directors. She was active in many other community organizations, including the American Field Service (AFS), hosting foreign exchange students (which led to life-long friendships), and at the First Reformed Church in the Stockade District of Schenectady.

Drew had a beautiful baritone voice, and was long active in community theater and music performance. He sang a dozen principal roles for the Schenectady Light Opera Company. He was a frequent soloist for many choruses and choirs, especially for the Mendelssohn Club (male chorus) of Albany, a group he became a member of as a teenager and continued throughout his life, also serving as president and board member. For twenty years he presented frequent concerts in Wellfleet, Truro and Orleans, with soprano Joan Stevens, and pianist Richard Lane. From the early 1980s until 2006 he regularly sang, accompanied by Stan Muraski (piano) at senior centers and retirement homes throughout the Capital District. (See song links at the bottom of Drew's resume page.)  

Drew's physical health declined after 2001, and with considerable help from Ginnie the last few years, he mostly lived at home in Schenectady or Wellfleet.  He and Ginnie were married for fifty-six years, until his death in 2007. Ginnie's health declined a year after Drew's death precipitated by a brain injury. Those who know her won't be surprised that against all odds, she improved enough to return to and live at her beloved home on Regent St., where she died in 2010.

I organized "Virginia Ward Mills & E. Andrew Mills: Outer Cape Paintings”, an exhibition of over 40 of their works in the town they loved, at the Wellfleet Preservation Hall, April 25 - May 29, 2016. 

Introduction    Virginia Ward Mills    E. Andrew Mills   Photos and Links