The Columbus Museum has received a $100,000 grant from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for the upcoming exhibition Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful, an award that underscores the importance of Thomas’ work and legacy.
The exhibition, slated to open summer of 2021, is co-organized by Jonathan Frederick Walz, Ph.D., Director of Curatorial Affairs and Curator of American Art at The Columbus Museum, and Seth Feman, Ph.D., Deputy Director for Art and Interpretation and Curator of Photography at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Va. The exhibition will open at the Chrysler Museum and includes stops at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. and The Frist Art Museum in Nashville, Tenn. before closing at The Columbus Museum in 2022.
“We are so pleased to receive this grant, which highlights the importance of Alma Thomas’ legacy to the visual arts,” said Marianne Richter, Director of The Columbus Museum. “The Columbus Museum and the Chrysler Museum of Art are grateful to the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for supporting the exhibition so generously. The award will help immeasurably in supporting the costs of the exhibition and its catalogue, thereby broadening both scholarly and public understanding of the importance of the creative process for Alma Thomas in both her art and life.”
Organizers note Everything Is Beautiful is the first exhibition to seriously consider Thomas' work before 1950 and therefore is a true retrospective. The exhibition will provide a comprehensive overview of Thomas’ long life (1891–1978) with approximately 100 works, including her rarely seen theatrical designs and beloved abstract paintings. While other exhibitions have focused primarily on Thomas’ paintings, Everything is Beautiful will track her 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. The show will also include a significant number of works that were not included in previous exhibitions about Alma Thomas.
“The Chrysler Museum is excited to partner with The Columbus Museum to bring the story of this groundbreaking artist to audiences across the country,” said Erik Neil, Director of the Chrysler Museum of Art. “The Columbus Museum’s rich collection of Thomas’ work allows for the opportunity to present an unprecedented look at her accomplishments. We are honored to have the support of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts as we uncover rarely exhibited pieces and present unique discoveries, even for those who are familiar with Thomas’ work.”
The exhibition will be organized around multiple themes from Thomas’ experience. These themes include the context of her Washington Color School cohort, the creative communities connected to Howard University and peers who protested museums that did not represent artists of color. Diverse artworks and archival materials will reveal the artist’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.