DC-area educators respond to Alma Thomas (Part II)

Alma Thomas taught art at Shaw Junior High School for 35 years. She said: “I devoted my life to children and they loved me.” To honor and connect to Thomas’s career as a teacher, we asked DC-area educators to respond to works of art in Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful . These educators participated in the Phillips’s 2021 Summer Teacher Institute, exploring ways to adapt arts-integrated lessons to their students. Read their perspectives on how they personally connected to Thomas’s artworks.

Read more responses in Part I

Alma W. Thomas, Three Wise Men, 1966, Acrylic on canvas, 36 1/2 x 23 1/2 in., The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Foundation for the Arts

Gratitude. Purpose. Learning. These are the three most valuable points that resonate in me when I look at this painting. The wise men are the carrier of three beautiful gifts.
Gratitude. As I wake up each day, there are so many things that I am thankful for. Foremost, is the gift of LIFE, especially during these tragic times when many people all over the world are dying.
Purpose. In 2015, I had a major car accident while I was seven weeks pregnant. Miraculously, I did not have a single bruise or cut. Since then my purpose of having a second life is making people know that there’s an omnipotent power above us. That experience led me to prioritize making great memories with my family and friends.
Learning. Knowing that this world is so vast and limitless gives us the chance to explore and learn. In this lifetime, it is important to embrace our own beauty, develop our courage, enhance our relationships, and live our life with passion.

What are you hoping to gain from the three wise men?

—Irene De Leon, Service Coordinator / Early Childhood Special Educator, Judy P. Hoyer Early Childhood Center

 

Alma W. Thomas, Wind Sparkling Dew and Green Grass, 1973, Acrylic on canvas, 69 x 50 in., Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Indiana, Gift of Vincent Melzac, 1976.04

This expressionist abstract painting about nature connects us to a feeling of calm and peacefulness. “Sparkling dew” recalls memories of walking across a dew-filled morning lawn, while “wind” associates memories of raindrops running down a window pane. Irregular dabs of blues and greens further add to the qualities of tranquility. An educator by profession, Alma Thomas developed her iconic style in the 1960s, at the age of 69. She was fascinated by her observations of shifting light in her garden. She was also influenced by Claude Monet’s paintings. In her own words, her artwork was meant to evoke “the heavens and stars.” Thomas serves as an inspiring role model, reminding us that educators who are also artists can do both, and thrive, in any stage of life.

—Eileen Cave, Grades PK-6, Visual Art & Arts Integration Lead Teacher, Rosa L. Parks Elementary School

DC-area educators respond to Alma Thomas (Part I)

Alma Thomas taught art at Shaw Junior High School for 35 years. She said: “People always want to cite me for my color paintings, but I would much rather be remembered for helping to lay the foundation of children’s lives.” To honor and connect to Thomas’s career as a teacher, we asked DC-area educators to respond to works of art in Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful . These educators participated in the Phillips’s 2021 Summer Teacher Institute, exploring ways to adapt arts-integrated lessons to their students. Read their perspectives on how they personally connected to Thomas’s artworks.

Read more responses in Part II

Alma W. Thomas, Cover of a birthday card, early 1960s, Watercolor on paper, Closed: 7 × 5 in., The Columbus Museum, Gift of Miss John Maurice Thomas in memory of her parents, John H. and Amelia W. Cantey Thomas and her sister Alma Woodsey Thomas, G.1994.20.141

How do you select a greeting card—by image outside or by message inside? If you are like me, I am drawn to the image first. The image strikes my eye with a message of its own.

This small watercolor illusion of a bouquet of flowers has been carefully arranged by Thomas, as if the flowers are laid out, waiting to be placed in a vase. Notice how she carefully layers her bleeding colors starting with a background of blotches of yellow, then greenish grey, and topped by red. Black streaks give structure to the blotches making the flower illusion hold.

What kind of card would you select this painting for? Birthday? Mother’s Day? Sympathy? What do you think is the written message inside? Who did Alma Thomas have in mind when she painted it? What message is she sending you?

Mary Beth Bauernschub, School Librarian, Beltsville PK-8 Academy

 

Alma W. Thomas, Falling Leaves, Love Wind Orchestra, 1977, Acrylic on canvas, 21 1/2 x 27 1/2 in., Private collection

When leaves seem unembarrassed and stubbornly brave to show their ruby color on bright bold days, I know that nature calls us in a whisper to say, “Don’t fear your evolution. Everything must change.” So I dance with abandon as the gentle wind blows. I will not fear change. I will let it all flow. I will trust in the process, this journey, this life. I will trust in the cycles, the beauty of life.

Colie Aziza, Early Childhood Special Educator, Pre-K, Frances Early Childhood Center

 

Alma W. Thomas, Sea of Tranquility, c. 1971, Watercolor on paper, 22 x 30 in., Alex and Lissette Stancioff

Gazing at this beautiful masterpiece of Alma Thomas reminds me of my own journey migrating from the Pearl of the Orient Seas to the Land of the Free. The challenges of migration offer opportunities for growth and resilience. Migrants have varying circumstances and make a move for different reasons, including economic, socio-political, and environmental factors. Initially, for me, it was the call to liberate myself from the hostile working environment back home, an experience that adversely affected my mental health and well-being.

Walking in the Manila Bay area in the Philippines on a sunny day, I had an epiphany. It was time to embrace change and pick up the broken pieces of my inner self. Luckily, I was offered employment in the United States, and after a few years of service, I was nominated for a countywide recognition. It’s also in this country where I found my lifetime partner, and we have been blessed with a miracle baby girl. Nowadays, I am making the time to explore what truly makes me better, greater, and happier. I knew if I did not take the risk, I would never have reached my own “Sea of Tranquility.”  Are you ready to find and explore yours?

Irene De Leon, Service Coordinator / Early Childhood Special Educator, Judy P. Hoyer Early Childhood Center

Phillips@THEARC Summer Camp: Meet our junior artists

2021-22 Sherman Fairchild Fellow Shiloah Coley interviews some of our youngest artists about the work they made at Art Investigators: Phillips@THEARC Summer Camp.

Our investigators hard at work at District Clay Center during their field trip

In August, The Phillips Collection hosted Art Investigators Summer Camp, offering the 8-12-year-old participants the opportunity to ask questions, make art, and take fun field trips to The Phillips Collection and District Clay Center free of cost with two sessions available, one each week.

The investigators participated in art activities, exposing them to a variety of mediums while at the Phillips@THEARC. The activities ranged from making paint to organizing their work for a show at the end of the week. Many of the pieces the kids made built on each other as they drew inspiration from still lifes for sculptures and then created photographs and paintings from those sculptures. On field trip days, our young artists toured The Phillips Collection and learned different ways of working with clay in partnership with Community Clay! by the District Clay Center, which brings clay and ceramics to the youth of DC, with a focus on Wards 7 and 8.

We caught up with some of the artists to ask them about their favorite investigations.

Meet Chioma!

Chioma exhibiting her work at Phillips@THEARC

Q: Of all the pieces you made, can you show me which one is your favorite? Can you describe it to me?

A: I like the sculptures, and the one I’m making right now is a collage about my sculptures.

Chioma works on a painting alongside her sculptures

Q: This camp is called Art Investigators. Can you think of anything you have investigated? What is something new that you have discovered?

A: The clay that you bake in the oven and how they mold the clay on the spinning wheel. When I was working with the baked clay, I saw that it had to dry for longer and you had to paint it a different way than regular clay.

 

 

Meet Neveah!

Neveah holds up a photograph she took

Q: Of all the pieces you made, can you show me which one is your favorite? Can you describe it to me?

Neveah rolls out her clay at District Clay Center

A: My favorite is the coil. You have to roll out the coil. I like the teapot thing, so you roll it up in a circle and then you put your thumb into it and you gotta put both of your thumbs in to flatten it out and push your thumb down to the bottom. Then, you gotta put the teacup holder thing, and then it’s a teacup.

Q: Why is it your favorite?

A: Because it looks like it’s real, and it looks like I really want to drink out of it!

 

 

Meet Our Art Investigator!

Our Art Investigator displays her painting connected to her sculptures

Q: Of all the pieces you made, can you show me which one is your favorite? Can you describe it to me?

A: We went to the clay center. We got to make our own sculptures like a still life so I decided to make a pitcher, that was on one of my images and that was my favorite. First, it was pretty hard to do it, but there are these things called coils that you roll and that’s what I used to make the pitcher. I made a bunch of texture on it to give it a pretty old look because in the image I was looking at, the picture was not like a modern picture, it was very old. So I tried to make it like that… I think it’s my favorite because I really like working with clay.

Photograph of our art investigator’s pitcher and mugs

Q: How are your works of art connected? Do they have anything in common?

A: Yes, so I ended up making two more items which were a coil pot and a pinch pot that were just like practice. But when I made the pitcher, I kind of understood that could be connected because it was a little mug (the pinch pot), and I could use it for the pitcher to pour a drink in the mug so I made this little strip of water out of clay to make it look like it was pouring out water and the coil pot actually did the same thing. I painted the inside of the mug and coil pot like a blue and dark blue to be able to look like it was pouring water into it.