Atlanta, GA-based art professor and mixed media artist Kevin E. Cole was born in Pine Bluff, Arkansas on January 19, 1960 to Jessie and Sam Cole, Jr. He received his B.S. degree in art education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff in 1982; his M.A. degree in art education a year later, and his M.F.A degree in drawing from Northern Illinois University in 1984.
Cole began his art career as an art teacher at Camp Creek Middle School in College Park, Georgia in 1985. At the same time, he also became an adjunct oprofessor at Georgia State University’s School of Art and Design where he remained until 1998. In 1990, Cole was chairperson of the visual and performing arts magnet program of Tri-Cities High School in East Point, Georgia until 1994. Later, in 2003, he became the chairman of the Fine Arts Department at Westlake High School where created the school's first arts program. Cole’s artwork is well known for including imagery of neckties as symbols of power and emphasizes the relationship between color and music, particularly jazz, blues, hip-hop, and gospel. He incorporates patterns and textures from traditional African cloths to speak to human conditions and behaviors.
According to Halima Taha Ph.D. author of Collecting Works on Paper and Canvas (1998) , Kevin Cole,works in a range of mediums, uses repetitive forms and color to create three dimensional structures that invite those who experience his work to reflect upon abstracted references to a necktie used for status, beauty, fashion and the destruction of human life. She further states that "Cole's work celebrates history, survival, and a personal memory of a time and place."
David C. Driskell, Distinguished University Professor of Art, University of Maryland observed, "I walked into Kevin’s studio with large northern windows and was immediately surrounded by a series of powerful wallworks that creatively bestride both paintings and sculpture done in an unusually accomplished manner."
Cole's piece, “Increase Risk with Emotional Faith,” a mixed media wall sculpture inspired by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. was acquired by the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture which opened in September, 2016. In 1994, Cole was commissioned by the Coca-Cola Company to create a fifteen story mural celebrating the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. The mural took two years to create and was a little over 800 square feet. He has been featured in Who’s Who in Education and received the Award of Excellence for Public Art by the Atlanta Urban Design Commission. His book "Kevin Cole Straight from the Soul: 25 Years in the Making," released in 2012, chronicles his evolution as an artist. His works are held in more than 2,000 public and private collections, including the collections of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; King & Spalding, Atlanta, Georgia; IBM, White Plains, New York; and the private collections of former NBA player Michael Jordan; producer, songwriter, musician and film producer Dallas Austin; and Monica Pearson, renowned Atlanta television broadcast journalist.