Art Professor | Class of 2018
Kevin Earlee Cole, renowned art instructor/ professor and mixed media artist, was born January 19, 1960, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to Jessie Mae (McGlounce) Cole, a public-school cafeteria manager, and Sam Cole, Jr., a mortician. One of six children, Kevin was educated in Pine Bluff public schools. During his youth, he enjoyed playing football and that is also when he discovered his love and penchant for art, using it as a form of self-expression. Kevin graduated from Pine Bluff Senior High School in 1978. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in art education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff (UAPB) in 1982, a Master of Arts degree in art education and painting in 1983 from the University of Illinois, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in drawing from the Northern Illinois University in 1984.
Cole’s extensive and impressive career began as an art instructor at Camp Creek Middle School in College Park, Georgia, while also serving as an adjunct professor at the School of Art and Design at Georgia State University. As the chairperson of the art department at Westlake High School in Atlanta, Georgia, Cole is credited with starting the school’s first art program in 2003.
According to public relations account executive and writer Tameka Lee, “Cole is well known for his abstract “necktie” pieces that are thematically linked to the history of racial violence in Pine Bluff and surrounding areas during the early and middle 1900s.” The artist said his grandfather showed him a tree on the older Cole’s property when Kevin was just 18 and told him it was where African Americans were lynched by their neckties as they were on their way to vote. His works are rich with symbolism, and he states that today neckties symbolize success in the African American experience. As an artist, Cole states he derives his artistic inspiration from the events that impact human existence and behavior, such as Hurricane Katrina, the events of September 11, 2001, and societal woes in general. While his creations reflect somber facades, his later pieces do also express the positive aspects of a dim reality.
During the course of his career, Cole has been awarded 27 grants and fellowships, 65 awards in art, 51 teaching awards, and more than 45 public art commissions. In 1994, he was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to create a 15-story mural to celebrate the 1996 Olympic Games that would be held in Atlanta, Georgia. The artist’s work has received extensive recognition with having his artwork featured in more than 470 exhibitions nationally and internationally. Thousands of public, corporate, and private collections showcase Cole’s artwork, including but not limited to those of the National Museum of African American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C.; the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, Georgia; the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Library and the Arkansas Arts Center both in Little Rock, Arkansas; the Yale University Art Gallery; the United States Embassy in Barbados; Bank of America in Charlotte, North Carolina; IBM in New York; and King and Spaulding Law Firm in Atlanta, Georgia; NBA greats Michael Jordan and Brad Sellers both formerly of the Chicago Bulls; Darrell Walker, NBA great and former head coach of the Toronto Raptors; and record and film producer, Dallas Austin. The artist and his work have been featured in more 125 publications, including the Washington Post, The Guardian Magazine in Paris (France), and Sculpture Magazine just to name a few.
Cole resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and is an art instructor at Westlake High School and the Savannah College of Art and Design, and he is an art consultant for the College Board in New York.