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Baila Miller returns to MSASS for art exhibition

Baila Miller

Baila Miller, a retired professor of social work from the Mandel School of Social Sciences, is stirring up a storm these days—that is one in acrylics on paper and canvas.

Miller's peers at MSASS and the campus community will have an opportunity to view 19 paintings she has done since retiring as the director of Mandel's Family Caregiver Center in 2000 and from her federally-funded research on aging and caregivers in 2003.

The exhibit, she tentatively calls "Painting: Works on Paper," can be viewed until the end of March in the second-floor hall gallery at MSASS.

It is fitting that her solo debut as a painter comes at MSASS. (Her first showing was during a student exhibition for the Old Town Triangle Association in 2002.)

The inner painter was always there, according to Miller, and it just took a nudge from Sarah Andrews, MSASS' assistant dean for academic affairs. Following a conversation about creativity, Andrews handed Miller a pad of paper and some markers and encouraged Miller to start drawing.

Miller, who dabbled in making pottery and beads, connected with the exercise.

The rest is history.

Miller took her first art class through the continuing education program at the Cleveland Institute of Art, followed by private painting lessons in Cleveland.

Retirement has freed her artist spirit, she said.

Since returning to Chicago where Miller and her husband (the former dean of the engineering school at the University of Akron) have family and once were on the faculty of the University of Illinois, she has pursued painting classes at the Chicago Art Institute, the Old Town Triangle Association and the Evanston Art Center as well as summer classes at the art colony on Mohegan Island, Maine.

She has also studied with Owen McHugh, a retired faculty member who taught painting at Columbia College in Chicago.

Miller has progressed from the paper and markers to a variety of media from unbleached canvas with acrylic paint, monoprints made by paint impressions from paint on glass to collages to "evoke a sense of energy, contemplation and beauty."

"Painting involves so many skills, and it takes time and practice to learn the basics," said Miller, who has packed her retirement days with painting activities.

Miller, who has been drawn to works of abstract art, has used that genre to express her connections with nature and "internal images of seashores and mountains."

In her artist statement, Miller said, "I balance color and texture and composition, creating abstract art that draws on my imagination and past rather than reference specific places or events."

Now living in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago, Miller's desire to paint has outgrown her studio space in the guest bedroom, and Miller moved into her own rented studio in the Flat Iron Building in Chicago's arts district, where she will open her doors on February 10-12 to the community during that city's Around the Coyote Winter Festival.


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