Alma Thomas was born in 1891 in Columbus, Georgia. Columbus is only about 80 miles from the Albany Museum of Art! In 1907, Alma and her family moved to a house in Washington, D.C. She was the oldest of four daughters to her parents, John and Amelia. Her father was a businessman and her mother was a dress designer.
Alma began showing an interest in art very early. When she was a child, she would sculpt puppets from local clay! Her childhood was full of education at home. Although during this time her town prohibited black people in public libraries, her aunts, who were schoolteachers, often brought professors and traveling lecturers to the Thomas home, including Booker T. Washington.
Alma Thomas was a very important abstract painter in the 1960s and '70s. She was the first African-American woman to have a solo art exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City in 1972! Despite others' opinions about her gender and race, she was able to excel as an expressionist painter. She loved nature, and would transform nature into colorful, bright, abstract mosaics.
Alma Thomas had a good education and was introduced to the possibility becoming an artist. She used her vast knowledge of math and science in her architectural drawings, and dreamed of becoming an architect. In 1913, she became a kindergarten teacher in Delaware for six years before going back to school.
n the 1920s, she attended and graduated from Howard University as the first graduate of Howard's fine art program. In 1934, she earned her Master of Art Education degree from Columbia University. Rather than become an exhibiting artist, Alma Thomas continued to teach for the next 35 years!
"I devoted my life to the children, and I think they loved me, at least those did who cared about art," she said.
In the 1960s, Alma Thomas become known for her exuberant colors, and abstract shapes and patterns from the trees and flowers around her. When she turned 68 years old, she finally had her work in a public exhibit! Then, in 1972, Alma Thomas was the first African-American woman to be given a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
She has been an amazing inspiration to artists of color and women artists across the world!
Let's try to make our own rainbow mosaic!
A mosaic is a picture or pattern produced by arranging together small colored pieces of hard material, such as stone, tile or glass. Alma used dashes of paint to create the mosaic effect on her large canvases.
Here's what you need:
Paint (watercolor is best, but acrylic will work!)
Next, Begin a ring of dark orange dashes. Do 2 rings of dark orange, and 2 rings of light orange. (To create a dark orange color, try mixing your orange with a tiny dab of red!)
finally, repeat these steps with dark yellow, yellow, light green, green, blue, dark blue, purple, light purple and pink!