On the Daily: 24 Hours in the Life of Jackie Milad

By Page Leggett

Jackie Milad’s cultural identity informs her art. The Baltimore-based artist paints and collages large-scale, mixed-media abstracts that explore her Egyptian-Honduran heritage.

Before becoming a full-time artist, she worked as a curator and ran an art gallery. Her ties to Charlotte — a city she says “charmed” her — are many. The Mint Museum and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture have exhibited her work, she had a 2021 residency at the McColl Center, and is represented in the Queen City by SOCO Gallery.

On her first visit to the Mint during her residency at the McColl Center, she was “blown away by the curatorial work,” she says. “Having worked in that world, I’m always interested in curatorial decisions. I was really impressed with Jennifer [Sudul] Edwards’ artistic selections and the writing on the text panels. I knew I wanted to meether.”

As for Milad’s schedule, it varies daily. She might go to an artist’s talk, visit a museum or library, or make studio visits to learn about other artists’ processes.

What she does outside the studio changes, but her time in the studio is consistent.

“I adhere to a strict work schedule,” she says. “I didn’t always. When I had a full-time job, I’d work on art when I could find the time. Today, I work on art in my studio. And at home, I’m focused on my family.”

Inspiration often comes during a walk. The texture of tree bark that catches her eye may show up in her work, as
will something she learned from the research she does in
her studio. Like a French flâneur, Jackie walks to observe
and be inspired.

“I try to be in the world with an open mind and open heart,” she says. “When I’m in that mode, a lot more is revealed to me. I’m a better observer. And being a keen observer is important to my success in the studio.”

5:45 AM The dogs — a greyhound and a whippet — wake my husband, Tom Boran, and me before our alarm goes off. Tom walks them while I “sleep in” until 6 AM.

6 AM I go downstairs and make a cup of matcha. When Tom comes home from his walk, he makes his coffee.
We sit in the dark together, drinking our caffeine and listening to music.

6:45 AM Things start to happen faster after a leisurely start to our day. Tiero, my 12-year-old son, comes downstairs for his breakfast. I make his lunch and Tom usually takes him to school.

7:30–9 AM I get my stuff done. I shower and make breakfast, which usually consists of a boiled egg with salt and pepper and sometimes hot sauce and a piece of toast or yogurt with homemade granola — I make it with peanut butter and chocolate chips — and lots of fruit. I keep it simple in the morning.

When I have time, I’ll take a 30 to 40-minute walk. In northeast Baltimore, we have lots of green space, old trees and a lake and park close by. Walking, whether in nature or on city streets, always resets my brain.

Once I’m home, I take care of replying to emails and other administrative things. I don’t have Wi-Fi at my studio, so I have to deal with it at home. I pack my lunch — usually leftovers from the night before. I’m lucky that my husband does all the cooking in our family.

9:30ish AM I leave for my studio, which is about a 20- minute drive from home. It’s quite an improvement over my previous commute. It could take up to an hour each way.

It is 800 square feet and housed in a 100-year-old former factory. We have old hardwood floors and big windows in a building where a lot of other artists have their studios, which is nice. Adjacent to the building are lots of trees, which is pretty unusual in the city. I have a great view of them from my window. And there’s a big park right next to the studio where I often walk. If you walk just a few miles from my studio, you’ll end up at the Maryland Zoo.

I don’t jump in to making art immediately, unless I left the studio the day before in the middle of a process. I’ll write in my journal, research, read. I’m especially interested in archaeology and history, and my reading on those subjects often influences my art.

Music plays a big part in my life, and I’m always listening while working. My husband is a musician, as well as a digital media artist, and he’s exposed me to so many genres. My eclectic playlist has everything from Puerto Rican dance music to heavy metal from the 1980s to more contemplative music.

Before I can start painting, there’s prep work to do. I prepare surfaces, cut scrap material, pick scraps of paper or fabric to use in my collages. I like working on several pieces at the same time.

I’m very active while working. I don’t just sit at my desk or an easel. I’m moving around a lot.

4 OR 4:30 PM I pick up my son from school. He’s generally stayed late to play squash or tennis.

5:30 PM Now, it’s my turn to walk our dogs. Tom makes dinner, while I do home stuff, which often includes helping Tiero with homework. And we always eat dinner together as a family. All three of us love movies and TV, and we’ll usually watch something together after dinner.

9:30 or 10 PM We both read in bed before we fall asleep, but I don’t do the kind of reading I do at my studio. Reading at home is all about escapism. I’ll read dumb fiction. Recently, it was a book called “Godslayer” — or something like that — pure escapist fantasy.

8 PM Tiero heads upstairs to read in bed. He’s usually asleep by 9 PM. Tom and I talk, catch up on our days. Because we’re such early risers, we also go to bed early.

Page Leggett is a Charlotte-based freelance writer. Her stories have appeared in The Charlotte Observer, The Biscuit, Charlotte magazine and many other regional publications.