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Alma W. Thomas:
Everything Is Beautiful
July 9, 2021 — October 3, 2021
Special Exhibition Galleries
Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful will provide a comprehensive overview of the artist’s long life (1891–1978) with approximately 100 works, including her rarely seen theatrical designs and beloved abstract paintings. The exhibition will track Thomas’s artistic journey from semi-rural Georgia to international recognition, demonstrating how her artistic practices extended to every facet of her life—from community service and teaching to gardening and dress.
Unlike a traditional biography, the exhibition will be organized around multiple themes from Thomas’s experience. These themes include the context of Thomas’s Washington Color School cohort, the creative communities connected to Howard University, and peers who protested museums that failed to represent artists of color.
Co-curators Jonathan Frederick Walz, PhD, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of American Art at The Columbus Museum and Seth Feman, PhD, the Chrysler’s Deputy Director for Art & Interpretation and Curator of Photography will intentionally include diverse artworks and archival materials. These elements will reveal Thomas’s complex and deliberate artistic existence before, during, and after the years of her “mature” output and career-making solo show at the Whitney Museum in 1972. She was the first African American woman to have a retrospective at the famed New York institution.
With the addition of Resurrection to the White House Collection in 2015, acquisitions by notable public institutions including Crystal Bridges Museum and MoMA, and a two-venue exhibition at the Tang Museum and The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2016, the time is right to reconsider Alma Thomas’s life and legacy.
“Despite the flurry of overdue attention, the artist’s long career is still inaccurately reduced to the late paintings from the 1960s and early 1970s,” Walz and Feman said. “The Columbus Museum’s rich holdings related to Thomas – a native of Columbus – offer the opportunity to present deeper insights into Thomas’s art and an inspiring look at how to lead a creative life.”
Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful is co-organized by The Columbus Museum and the Chrysler Museum of Art
The exhibition will travel to the following institutions:
- The Phillips Collection, Washington, October 30, 2021–January 23, 2022
- Frist Art Museum, Nashville, February 25–June 5, 2022
- The Columbus Museum, Columbus, July 1, 2022–Sept 25, 2022
Thursday, July 8
Members are invited to enjoy a first look at the exhibition before it opens to the public.
Thursday, July 8
Discover details about Alma W. Thomas’s life and work and pose some of your own questions during a live webinar with catalog scholars Aaron Payne, owner of Aaron Payne Fine Art, and Elka Marie Stevens, PhD, Associate Professor & Coordinator of Fashion Design at Howard University. RSVP
Saturday, July 17
Local businesses, you’re invited to join us for our first-ever Business Appreciation Day. Details
Saturday, July 24
Celebrate Alma W. Thomas’s life and explore the idea of beauty in the world around us.
Fourth Wednesdays, July–September
Join us in the galleries after-hours! Enjoy exclusive access to the exhibition with a cash bar in Huber Court. Get tickets
Sunday, August 1
Ross Gay meditates on that which goes away—loved ones, the seasons, and the earth as we know it—and tries to find solace in the processes of the garden and the orchard, where death, sorrow, and loss are converted into what might, with patience, nourish us. Sign up
Saturday, August 7 or September 4
Explore color theory, visual depth, and perception while you create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. No experience necessary. Sign up
Thursday, August 12
Gay will discuss poetry, art, and the work of Alma Thomas with Seth Feman, PhD, the Deputy Director of Art & Interpretation and Curator of Photography. Details
Sunday, August 29
Deirdre Mask examines the fate of streets named after Martin Luther King, Jr. and the wayfinding means of ancient Romans. Sign up
Wednesday, September 22
In a virtual symposium hosted by the National Gallery of Art, explore the life of Alma W. Thomas with particular focus on her place in Washington, D.C.’s artistic world. Registration opening soon
Sunday, September 26
Uncover what inspired Jamaica Kincaid, discover her affection for rhododendron Jane Grant and ordinary Blue Lake string beans. Learn about the people who tend to gardens in this intimate and playful book. Sign up
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