A Washington DC, Citywide Celebration of Iconic Artist Alma W. Thomas

By Editorial Team on August 23, 2021
Portrait of Alma Thomas © Michael Fischer, 1976. Courtesy of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

 

Citywide event announced in partnership between National Museum of Women in the Arts, Smithsonian American Art Museum and The Phillips Collection 

 

National Gallery of Art Honors Legacy of Pioneering Artist Alma Thomas
Symposium and Community Events Featured as Part of Citywide Celebration

The National Gallery of Art is joining cultural institutions across Washington this fall in honoring the late pioneering artist Alma Thomas. Former First Lady Michelle Obama delivers a virtual introduction on September 22, kicking off the festivities, which include the 2021 John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art and Community Celebration at the National Gallery. Learn More

 

National Museum of Women in the Arts Celebrates Alma Woodsey Thomas with Slate of Programs this Fall

Joining cultural and educational institutions from across Washington, D.C., the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) announces its participation in a citywide celebration of the artist Alma Woodsey Thomas (1891–1978) with programs this fall that complement the retrospective Alma W. Thomas: Everything is Beautiful at The Phillips Collection. Thomas was a pioneering artist and educator who taught the importance of seeking beauty in the everyday. She developed her signature style—large, abstract paintings filled with dense, irregular patterns of bright colors—in her 70s. NMWA will explore Thomas’s life and artistic process as well as the artists and movements that inspired her vibrant artwork.

The citywide celebration will provide a fresh perspective on a dynamic and multifaceted career defined by constant creativity. The retrospective and celebratory events trace her journey from semi-rural Georgia to Washington, D.C., to becoming the first Black woman given a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art at age 81.

NMWA’s programs include:

NMWA xChange: Alma Woodsey Thomas and the Little Paris Group
Tuesday, September 14, 12–12:45 p.m.
Alma Woodsey Thomas was part of the Little Paris Group, an intellectual and aesthetic collective of African American artists started in Washington by painter and textile designer Loïs Mailou Jones and artist and Howard University arts professor Céline Marie Tabary. During this monthly talk show, viewers are connected to NMWA and its mission to champion women artists. Hosts from the museum interview special guests, including artists, educators and curators; consider topics relevant to our world; and offer insight into collaborations that NMWA is fostering while its building is closed for renovation. In the first episode of the series, the museum’s Associate Curator Virginia Treanor, PhD, and Senior Educator Adrienne L. Gayoso welcome independent scholar, art historian and curator Adrienne L. Childs, PhD. Free. Registration required at https://nmwa.org/whats-on/calendar/nmwa-xchange-sep-14/.

Virtual Happy Hour: Alma Woodsey Thomas and Her Circles  
Wednesday, October 13, 5:30–6:30 p.m.
A virtual happy hour celebrates Alma Woodsey Thomas and her remarkable art circles. A specialty cocktail will be made in her honor and presenters will share artworks and stories about the Little Paris Group and Washington Color School, a visual art movement primarily concerned with non-representational color field painting. Guest speaker Fanna Gebreyesus, curatorial associate at Glenstone Museum, leads an exploration of #5WomenArtists behind these art movements. Free. Registration required at https://nmwa.org/whats-on/calendar/virtual-happy-hour-oct-13/.

Alma Woodsey Thomas: Beneath the Surface
Wednesday, December 8, 1–1:45 p.m.  
A conversation with Gwen Manthey, paintings conservator at Smithsonian American Art Museum, delves into the Smithsonian’s research into Alma Woodsey Thomas’s artistic process. Manthey explores materials and techniques that the artist used to create her abstract compositions and vibrant patterns. Free. Registration required at https://nmwa.org/whats-on/calendar/alma-woodsey-thomas-dec-08/.

Follow NMWA on social media @WomenInTheArts for resources, information and collaborations to be shared throughout fall 2021.

Beginning fall 2021, cultural and educational institutions across Washington, DC, join together to celebrate the life of pioneering artist and educator Alma Thomas (1891–1978) with a variety of exciting programs and events, alongside the retrospective exhibition Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful at The Phillips Collection, October 30, 2021, to January 23, 2022. Beyond her artwork, Alma Thomas’s accomplishments and contributions to our cultural heritage were vast and varied—she was the first graduate of Howard University’s Department of Art, the first African American woman to have a work of art acquired by the White House Collection, a founding member and vice president of one of the first Black-owned private galleries in the nation, and a teacher for 35 years who taught us the importance of seeking beauty in the everyday.

The celebration begins in September to coincide with the anniversary of Thomas’s birthday on September 22, with ongoing events that will take place into 2022. Public programming includes a major symposium, workshops, exhibitions, and events, including an appearance by Former First Lady Michelle Obama and other notable speakers.

EVENTS:

Visit www.AlmaThomasDC.org for more information and details on all events.

September

IN-PERSON: Display of Four Major Acrylic Paintings by Alma Thomas
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts | September 3, 2021–August 21, 2022

VIRTUAL: Teacher Workshop Alma Thomas: Teacher, Artist, Trailblazer, Inspiration
Smithsonian American Art Museum | September 17

VIRTUAL: John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art: Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful
*Including an Evening Celebration of Alma Thomas with Former First Lady Michelle Obama
National Gallery of Art | September 22–23, 2021

IN-PERSON: Wilmerding Community Celebration
National Gallery of Art | September 24–26

VIRTUAL: NMWA xChange: Alma Woodsey Thomas and the Little Paris Group
National Museum of Women in the Arts | September 14

VIRTUAL: Feminist Art History Conference, held in collaboration with NGA Wilmerding events
American University | September 2426

October

IN-PERSON: Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful
The Phillips Collection| October 30, 2021–January 23, 2022

VIRTUAL: Happy Hour: Alma Woodsey Thomas and Her Circles
National Museum of Women in the Arts | Wednesday, October 13

VIRTUAL: Alma Woodsey Thomas: Beneath the Surface
National Museum of Women in the Arts | Wednesday, December 8

November

VIRTUAL: Alma W. Thomas and David Driskell: Journeys in Art
The Phillips Collection and Howard University | November 13

December

VIRTUAL: Alma Woodsey Thomas: Beneath the Surface
National Museum of Women in the Arts | December 8

January and beyond

IN-PERSON: Alma Thomas Staged Reading of One-Act Play by Local Playwright Caleen Jennings
The Phillips Collection | January 20

IN-PERSON: Composing Color: Paintings by Alma Thomas
Smithsonian American Art Museum | October 6, 2023–April 21, 2024

Ongoing 

VIRTUAL + IN-PERSON: SAAM Collection of Thomas
Smithsonian American Art Museum

VIRTUAL: Drawn to Art: Ten Tales of Inspiring Women Artists
Smithsonian American Art Museum

VIRTUAL + IN-PERSON: Alma Thomas DC Heritage Tour
DC Public Library

Alma W. Thomas Everything Is Beautiful: A Washington, D.C., Citywide Celebration
Alma W. Thomas (1891–1978) was a pioneering artist and educator who taught us the importance of seeking beauty in the everyday. Beyond her artwork, Thomas’s contributions to D.C.’s cultural heritage were vast and varied—she was the first graduate of Howard University’s Department of Art, the first African American woman to have a work of art acquired by the White House Collection, a founding member and vice president of one of the first Black-owned private galleries in the nation, and a teacher for 35 years. In summer and fall 2021, cultural and educational institutions across Washington, D.C., will celebrate Thomas’s life with a variety of programs and events, alongside the retrospective Everything Is Beautiful at The Phillips Collection, October 30, 2021, to January 23, 2022—honoring the artist through opportunities that encourage the pursuit of beauty. Visit www.AlmaThomasDC.org for more information.