Friday, April 12Hampton Roads Weekly

Come Back to Beauty… Come Back to the Arts

Chrysler Museum Received Grants

The Chrysler Museum of Art has been awarded a $200,000 grant from the Henry Luce Foundation and has been approved for a $65,000 Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Both will support the upcoming exhibition Alma W. Thomas: A Creative Life. Scheduled to open in July 2021, the traveling show is co-organized by the Chrysler Museum of Art and The Columbus Museum in Georgia 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. 

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. It 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 Chrysler Museum is excited to partner with The Columbus Museum to bring the story of this groundbreaking artist to audiences across the country. The Columbus Museum’s rich collection of Thomas’ work allows for the opportunity to present an unprecedented, comprehensive look at her accomplishments,” said Chrysler Museum Director Erik Neil. “This show will uncover little known and rarely exhibited works to ensure unique discoveries, even for those who are familiar with Thomas’ creativity. A richly illustrated catalog co-published by Yale University Press will accompany the exhibition and offer new insights into Thomas’ life. We are fortunate and honored to be supported by the Henry Luce Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts in this endeavor.”

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 failed to 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. 

With the addition of Resurrection to the White House Collection in 2015; acquisitions by notable public institutions, including Crystal Bridges Museum and MoMA; and a two-venue exhibition at the Tang Museum and The Studio Museum in Harlem in 2016, the time is right to reconsider Thomas’ life and legacy.

Overall, the National Endowment for the Arts has approved 1,187 grants totaling $27.3 million in the first round of fiscal year 2020 funding to support arts projects in every state in the nation, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  

The Art Works funding category supports projects that focus on public engagement with, and access to, various forms of excellent art across the nation; the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence; learning in the arts at all stages of life and the integration of the arts into the fabric of community life.