Rodney McMillian receives key to Columbia, state resolution

The Contemporaries, an affinity group of the Columbia Museum of Art (CMA), have revealed two new museum acquisitions by Columbia-born artist Rodney McMillian. The CMA is the first museum in the Carolinas to acquire McMillian’s work. Both paintings are currently on display in the CMA’s collection gallery 20, where they will remain on view through October.

At a reception August 7 at the museum, Columbia City Councilman Dr. Aditi Bussells presented McMillian with a Key to the City. S.C. State House Representative Todd Rutherford honored McMillian with a resolution.

“McMillian is one of the most thoughtful and engaging American artists working today,” said Della Watkins, CMA executive director. “The paintings acquired by the CMA — one representational and one abstract — exemplify McMillian’s artistic range and the intricacy of his subject matter.”

McMillian’s conceptual art practice is engaged in an ongoing investigation of the United States, its history and public perceptions, as well as the private experiences and dreams of its inhabitants. He works across a wide range of media, including painting, sculpture, and film. The CMA now counts itself among one of the many public collections that hold McMillian’s work, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, and the Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany. McMillian — who lives and works in Los Angeles, California — serves as professor and chair of the department of art at UCLA.

“Rodney McMillian’s work is a shining example of the transformative power of art. We are proud to claim him as one of our own and to celebrate his exceptional achievements,” said Columbia City Councilman Dr. Aditi Bussells. “With these acquisitions, McMillian’s artwork will forever be a part of our city’s rich cultural tapestry.”

Currently, on view in a CMA collection gallery featuring art created after 1960, McMillian’s paintings are presented alongside works by other major figures such as Sam Gilliam, Carrie Mae Weems, and Andy Warhol.

“McMillian’s success is an inspiration to all who have known him throughout the years and to the many bright, young minds we have in South Carolina. It is heartening to see his talents recognized and celebrated on a statewide platform,” says S.C. State House Representative Todd Rutherford. “This resolution is a testament to the deep admiration and pride our state holds for Rodney’s remarkable accomplishments, and it represents the lasting legacy of creativity and artistic expression that flourishes within our community.”

The acquisitions were made possible through the efforts of the Contemporaries, an organization that supports the CMA through fundraising.

“This is a momentous occasion for our organization, marking the first time in our history that we acquired not only one, but two incredible artworks from a single artist,” said Will Roberts, Contemporaries president. “McMillian’s art challenges norms and inspires creativity. Ultimately, these works help fortify the Contemporaries’ mission to grow involvement at the CMA while securing modern art at the museum.”

The Contemporaries host art-centered events throughout the year — no art background required. Signature events include its spring and fall membership drives and an annual ball.

The group’s goal is to engage new audiences at the museum through programs and networking opportunities. This year’s fall membership event is centered around the McMillian acquisitions and open to the public. More details will be announced soon via the Contemporaries’ social media pages and email newsletter. To learn more and get involved, visit

The Columbia Museum of Art is a charitable nonprofit organization dedicated to lifelong learning and community enrichment for all. Located in the heart of downtown Columbia, the CMA ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and creative educational programs. At the heart of the CMA and its programs is its collection, which encompasses 7,000 works and spans 5,000 years of art history. To learn more, visit

Rep. Micah Caskey (left) looks on as Rep. Todd Rutherford (center) presents artist Rodney McMillian (right) with a resolution. Photo by Columbia Museum of Art / Victor Johnson.