Black Artists in History: Alma Thomas

Alma Thomas (b. 1891 – 1978) was an abstract expressionist painter that became widely recognized during the 1960s. Born in Columbus, Georgia but based out of Washington, D.C. for most of her life, Alma was also well-known as a teacher in the community. She spent the majority of her teaching career at Shaw Junior High School where she helped created a community arts program for the students.

Thomas’ career as an artist gained momentum after she retired from teaching in 1960. She began expanding her artistic studies and eventually found her voice in color field painting. Her style of abstract expressionism consists of deliberate brushstrokes on a canvas, sometimes leaving areas of the canvas untouched which in turn activates the color and the rhythm of the brushstrokes. Much of her work is inspired by the effects of light and atmosphere in nature, as well as the expressive qualities of color and composition.

Some of Alma Thomas’ accomplishments include being the first person to graduate from Howard University’s fine arts program, and in 1972, becoming the first black female to have a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. In 2009, two of Thomas’ pieces, Watusi and Sky Light, were chosen by Michelle Obama to be hung in the White House during Barack Obama’s presidency.

**My thoughts: This just goes to show that it really doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s never too late to follow your passion and make it more than just a passing thought. Just do what comes naturally!

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