Curatorial Insights & Citations

Curatorial Insights

Curating this exhibition was one of the most fun and intriguing finals I have done. This entire process from sourcing the images, researching the artists, and constructing the online exhibit was an engaging, exciting, albeit time-consuming, process that has truly changed how I view, understand, and appreciate art and artists. When I first started this project, I wanted to choose an artist whose work really stood out and spoke to me. As I googled each and every artist that was available on the sign-up sheet, the paintings of Alma Thomas jumped out at me. I was swept by bright and vibrant colors, the mosaic-like and its dynamic energy, and the sense of joy and beauty from her work. From then on, I knew I wanted to focus my exhibition on her paintings.

As I began the research process, I remembered seeing many of her paintings around DC. I recall seeing “Spring--Delightful Flower Bed” in my times walking through the Art galleries at the African American Museum. Through my research, I found that Alma Thomas donated her paintings to the Smithsonian, which are now housed in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. My favorite aspect of the research process was reading the interviews she gave for exhibitions and diving into the Smithsonian archive. There I was able to find her notes, old letters, teaching documents, and a manuscript for her autobiography. These archival documents really helped me understand her work at a much deeper level and gave insight into her journey as an artist.

One aspect about Alma Thomas that intrigued and challenged me was her apolitical stance. Giving the time-- the Civil Rights Movement, Black Liberation Movements, Black Arts Movement, etc.-- I was quite surprised to learn about her attitude of “art for art’s sake” rather than take a political or social stance. Given the various historical events she had witnessed, I almost expected her to take a more proactive stance. However, upon more research, I found that she was quite politically and socially engaged. During the 60s, she Marched on Washington and created a painting depicting the March. During her teaching career, she was dedicated to what we now call “artivism” and advocated for Black student artists by organizing exhibits, lectures, and clubs. In the Smithsonian archives, they have copies of the tests and curriculums she would give her students, and it was focused on African American Art History.

Upon reflection, I found her focus on love, joy, peace, just as revolutionary and radical as the artists engaged in the Black Arts Movement. In this current tumultuous time, seeing images crafted by a Black woman, who has witnessed the darkest chapters of American, craft images that center on hope, light, peace, and joy helped me expand my mind and imagine life beyond these painful moments. Alma Thomas’s work reminds me of a quote from bell hooks “To truly be free, we must choose beyond simply surviving adversity, we must dare to create lives of sustained optimal well-being and joy. In that world, the making and drinking of lemonade will be a fresh and zestful delight, a real-life mixture of the bitter and the sweet, and not a measure of our capacity to endure pain, but rather a celebration of our moving beyond pain.”

Even in her older age, Alma Thomas continued to break boundaries and open doors for Black women artists. This exhibition project gave me a great deal of knowledge and insight I would not have gotten otherwise.


“Alma Thomas.” Smithsonian American Art Museum, Smithsonian Institution,

“Alma Thomas.” The Studio Museum in Harlem, 1 May 2020, 

Delsarte, Louis. “Artist Statement.” Louisdelsarte,

“The Eclipse.” Princeton University, The Trustees of Princeton University,

Kalina, Richard. “Through Color.” Art in America,, 20 July 2016,

Kurutz, Steven. “Louis Delsarte, a Muralist of the Black Experience, Dies at 75.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 May 2020,

“‘Resurrection’ by Alma Thomas.” WHHA (En-US), White House Historical Association,

“Spring--Delightful Flower Bed.” National Museum of African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institute,

Thomas, Alma. “Alma Thomas Papers, circa 1894-2001: Autobiographical Writings, circa 1960s-circa 1970.” Archives of American Art,

Curatorial Insights & Citations