• Rachel Bradshaw

Alma Thomas: Georgia's Out-of-this-World Artist

Updated: Jun 6


History


Alma Thomas grew up in Columbus, Georgia and enjoyed the beautiful landscape and natural scenery of her hometown. As a child, Alma was passionate about art. In 1907, Alma and her family moved to Washington D.C. During high school, Alma described the art classroom as a “beautiful place” that was just like “entering heaven.’ Art was not Alma’s only passion, she also enjoyed working with children and pursued a career in teaching. After several years of teaching, Alma became the first student to graduate from Howard University’s Fine Arts department. After graduating with a degree in art as an accomplished painter, Alma returned to a career in education- devoting over 35 years as an educator in the public schools of Washington D.C.

Being a teacher allowed Alma the flexibility to have summers off. She used her summer breaks to pursue a Master’s Degree in Art Education from Columbia University in New York City. It wasn’t until Alma retired from teaching in 1960 that she would focus on painting full-time. Her first big art show was at Howard University. For this show, Alma created a new series of paintings- all inspired by nature and featuring tiny bright rectangles and patterns of shapes and colors.


The Space Race and the Moon Landing were major historical events that influenced Alma’s artwork and she often used satellite images as inspiration. The paintings almost looked like a mosaic. At the age of 80, Alma became the first African American woman artist to have a solo exhibition at one of America’s most important art museums, the Whitney Museum of Art. In 2015, Alma Thomas’ painting titled, Resurrection, was selected by Michelle Obama to hang in the White House Old Family Dining Room during Black History Month.

Project

Today, we are going to create beautiful art inspired by the works of Alma Thomas’s series "Snoopy", named after the rover used to navigate around the moon during the first moon landings. Her art from the "Snoopy" series really captures the excitement of this new exploration of space using bright colors and patterns- her signature style.


Materials

  • bright paint colors

  • paint brushes

  • a small cup of water

  • paper

  • a circle to trace

  • pencil

Instructions

  1. Trace a circle in the center of your paper

  2. Choose your first color and outline the inside of your circle with your paintbrush making short brush marks all the way around the circle. Repeat as many times as you want

  3. Use a new color whenever you want until your fill your page with bright colors


If you want to create your own art exhibition featuring many paintings, try another style inspired by Alma Thomas.

  1. Trace a circle on a new sheet of paper

  2. Choose your first color and paint a vertical line in the circle using short brush marks

  3. Change your colors whenever you like

  4. Continue painting in vertical lines until the circle is complete

For even more variation, try placing the circle somewhere different on you paper- like in a corner. Then you can paint an outline around the outside of the circle in the same way as you did before.


Now you can create your own Out-of-this-World Art Exhibition for your family and friends to enjoy.