ALMA W. THOMAS: EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL
Frist Art Museum / 919 Broadway February 25, 2022 - June 5, 2022
Alma W. Thomas
The Frist Art Museum presents Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful, a comprehensive overview of the artist’s long, dynamic life (1891–1978) and multifaceted career that was defined by constant creativity. Featuring more than 150 works, including her joyful and colorful abstract paintings and many objects that have never been exhibited or published before, the exhibition demonstrates how Thomas’s artistic practices extended to every aspect of her life—from community service and teaching to gardening and dress. Co-organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art and The Columbus Museum, Georgia, Everything Is Beautiful will be on view in the Frist’s Upper-Level Galleries from February 25 through June 5, 2022.
This major retrospective follows the trailblazing artist’s journey from Columbus, Georgia, to Washington, DC, to becoming the first Black woman to have a solo show at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art in 1972, when she was eighty years old. It includes thirty-eight canvases spanning 1922–77, more than sixty works on paper, four marionettes, and a range of sculptures, photographs, and ephemera.
“Everything Is Beautiful not only provides a more complex understanding of Alma Thomas, but also offers an inspiring example of how to lead a creative life today,” says Seth Feman, PhD, one of the exhibition’s curators and the Chrysler’s deputy director for art and interpretation and curator of photography. He notes that, while Thomas has been long adored by collectors and scholars, her talent remained unfamiliar to a wider public for more than three decades after her death until 2009, when President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama included her work among the paintings they installed at the White House.
“Thomas achieved artworld stardom but considered teaching art to be her greatest legacy,” says Frist Art Museum senior curator Trinita Kennedy. The Frist will highlight Thomas’s thirty-five-year tenure at Shaw Junior High in Washington, DC, by presenting a concurrent exhibition titled Nashville Art Teachers: Beyond the Classroom that salutes the extraordinary art teachers in our own community and their heroic efforts during the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic. It features the work of elementary, middle, and high school art teachers working in Davidson County and will be on view in the Conte Community Arts Gallery from March 4 through August 28, 2022.