MCLA Alumn Publishes Comic Funded by Assets for Artists Capacity Building Grant

This spring Delano “Akairo” Mills ‘23 graduated with a bachelor’s in Studio Art and a minor in Arts Management from MCLA. This summer he’s working as an admissions clerk at the Springfield Museum and received a $3k grant from Assets for Artists to focus on his artistic practice.


Mills, from Springfield, Mass., was awarded the 2023 Massachusetts Statewide Capacity Building Grant Program this July to fund a website and his first 60+ page comic, “Desert Sunflower Vol 1: Seed of the Red Sun,” which was independently published and is now available on Amazon.

“Since graduating I've achieved what I wanted to; getting a job in a field I'm interested in with decent daytime hours, close to home, and I was able to complete my book as well,” Mills said. “I'm excited to see what my future holds post-graduation.”

Mills is a digital illustrator, photographer, character designer, and comic artist who primarily focuses on bringing black representation and visual aesthetics like
Afro-Punk, Afro-fantasy, and Afro-Surrealism into the forefront of sequential art and storytelling.

Navigating the process of publishing a book wasn’t easy for Mills, which is why he chose to self-publish.

Mills Drawing“The goal of this is to prove that self-publishing is possible and that artists don't need to rely on publishers – selling their IP and losing their creative freedom,” he said. “That is something I value greatly. I now take on the role of everything a publisher has to do, but at the end of the day I still have my creative freedom and that is invaluable.”

The Massachusetts Statewide Capacity Building Grant Program awarded 26 artists split into two cohorts, one in July and the second in October. The program offers an unrestricted grant of $3k, priority access to Assets for Artists online workshops for the year, one individual coaching session with an Assets for Artists trainer, support for setting goals and making an action-oriented plan to reach them, and peer-networking opportunities within the cohort.