We had the good fortune of connecting with Brian “Free” Mills and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Brian “Free”, other than deciding to work for yourself, what else do you think played a pivotal role in your story?
I think the single most important decision I’ve made (and candidly struggled with at times) is continuing to stay true to myself, and authentic in my work. I believe this applies to a lot of the moving parts at play in being an artist/creative, and running your own “shop”. From the actual art (or content) you create, to how you choose to or not to represent and market yourself, your interactions and conversations with clients, the list goes on. It’s a space where there’s a lot of external influence, some of it welcomed and some of it not. Personally, staying grounded in the things that moved me to dive into art in the first place, forces all external noise to move accordingly. My work feels, looks, and sounds like me, and I believe it’s made a world of a difference in how it’s received, and how much more enjoyable it is to create.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
By day, I’m a financial advisor and wealth manager with an investment firm HQ’d in Century City. As you can imagine, these two sides of the coin are completely different from one another, but create a really interesting balance. In that space, I’m most proud of being able to provide the type of ideas, resources, and conversations to people that look like me, talk like me, and love the same things I do. I’m a black financial advisor, I don’t think I need to reiterate how rare that is, or how important it is for the next generation to see that as an achievable career path. Coming from a psychology and neuroscience degree at Princeton, the career path wasn’t direct nor was it clear, but it’s a position I’ve earned and worked hard for. It’s one that continues to humble me and offer lessons and challenges regularly. One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned, which I think is universal, is that a lot of success comes from how you manage relationships, and paying attention to the details. This is an understatement, but It’s a major goal of mine to “change the narrative” from the inside out; from a financial health/wealth perspective, as well as a creative perspective. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are way too many names to name here over the years, but you said jump right in so let’s get to it. I’d like to recognize my brother Malcolm for being the earliest, closest inspiration and example of pursuing a career as a black artist, as well as being aggressively supportive, love you for that. Speeno and Akil for showing nothing but love and encouragement during the college day art projects (aka art that was just booboo). Jason and Parker for being two of the first of my best friends to actually purchase some original pieces, with money and not favors (I think I can speak for all creatives when i say that that means so much more than it may seem). ALL of my Philly fam for creating a space where I could create and be taken seriously doing it, especially Wyatt, Troc, and Adrian for dealing with paint on the walls, floors, etc. Ya’ll are great roommates for that, and my lifelong brother. Eddins for being a RN in all aspects and making sure I continue to be one as well. Hogan, aka Von Deon, aka @theflowerboyy, my unofficial partner in collaboration (big shouts to the FreeCanvas first class 50). He’s a genius and continues to apply pressure with his creative mind (follow him). All friends, old and new that have purchased anything (it TRULY means a lot, creating isn’t free) and all friends old and new that have showed love and supported. Lastly, my parents. Planting the seed from the beginning that the power you have in your body to create and express is limitless. They continue to be the most supportive, going 30 years strong (promise i’ll get that piece to you Pops i’m workin on it). I’m sure I missed some very important folks. My apologies if so, but you know who you are.
Instagram: @freesidemills ; @boards_by free ; @dontkillmills (personal page)