Lea Barton got a late start on her brilliant second act as one of Mississippi's most acclaimed working artists. She began her relationship with Millsaps by enrolling in an enrichment art class in her thirties. She decided that she didn't want her learning to stop there, and she applied for admission to the Millsaps Adult Degree Program. Like many adult students, Barton felt that a college degree would not only give her more professional opportunities, but a greater sense of self-fulfillment. The naturally gifted Barton served as art historian Elise Smith's Ford Fellow for two years while pursuing her undergraduate degree, and she also lectured in the Heritage Program and assisted Dr. Smith in teaching art majors.
After receiving her B.L.S. from Millsaps, Barton enrolled at the prestigious Pratt Institute in New York City, where she studied under the renowned artist Gillian Jagger and received her M.F.A. degree. Her works have been displayed in places like the National Museum for Women in the Arts in Washington, DC and the New Orleans Museum of Art. She has served as artist-in-residence at the Mississippi Museum of Art and is a two-time recipient of the Visual Arts Fellowship from the Mississippi Arts Commission. Barton is also active in the community, directing an arts education program for Operation Shoestring, a non-profit serving families in inner-city Jackson.
She praises the College for helping her achieve a dream. "I am Millsaps College, in the sense that my life is the realization of the hopes, dreams, and goals that Millsaps holds for its students. I gained skills at Millsaps that can take me anywhere, and my experience there made me believe that I can be successful at anything. Millsaps did not teach me merely how to fly . . . it taught me how to soar."
Barton's fascinating and challenging multimedia pieces tell a visual story, combining themes like struggle, loss and vulnerability, often in the context of epochal historical moments like the civil rights movement. "Hopefully it all comes together like a warm quilt or good gumbo," she says.