TC Alumni Celebrate the Art of Alumna Alma Thomas at Studio Museum of Harlem

On Thursday, October 20, alumni, students and members of the TC family enjoyed an evening of camaraderie, culture and community in Harlem. President Susan Fuhrman hosted a private tour of the ongoing Alma Thomas exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem in which alumni were treated with special access to the bold expressions of the late inspirational artist and TC alumna (MA '34) through the eyes of Doris Zhou, curator of the exhibit.

During her welcome, President Fuhrman correlated TC's legacy of firsts to those of Alma Thomas who indeed embodied that true spirit of TC. "Alma proved without a doubt that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. She was nearly 70 when she began her artistic career, and she was 80 when she became the first African-American woman to have a solo show at the Whitney. In 2009, 31 years after her death, her painting Watusi (Hard Edge) was one of just two selected by Michelle Obama and the White House curator to be exhibited during the Obama presidency. And last year, her painting Resurrection became the first work by an African-American woman to hang in the public spaces of the White House as part of the permanent collection.

Alma Thomas (MA '34) at Studio Museum of Harlem
Alma Thomas (MA '34) at Studio Museum of Harlem

Alma’s earlier life was not without its share of firsts either. Most notably, in 1924, Alma became Howard University’s very first fine arts graduate. She spent the next 35 years teaching at the same junior high school in Washington, D.C., somehow managing to earn her master’s at TC along the way."

Professor of Art and Art Education Judy Burton and her former student Mary Anne Rose (EdD '05), who has focused her research on the work of underrepresented artist populations, also shared their insights with the group following the tour.

Rose was married to celebrated African-American artist, Herbert Gentry, a contemporary of Thomas and an influential artist in his own right who also happened to be a close collaborator with Teachers College. "Indeed Gentry was featured in two exhibitions at the Studio Museum in HarlemAn Ocean Apart (1982) and Explorations in the City of Light (1997)." Rose went on to share that she was recently at the preview opening of the new American Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, to see her husband’s work hanging between Henry Ossawa Tanner and Charles White in the section themed as Religion and Spirituality. She reflected, "Indeed I have been aware of the work of many individuals in these museums, to fight for recognition for African-American art and culture. I feel I too have contributed my efforts to this struggle."

Alma Thomas (M.A. ’34)
Alma Thomas (M.A. ’34)

Select paintings from Gentry's Estate have been donated to Teachers College and can also be seen hanging in Grace Dodge Hall.

This colorful evening celebrated not only the impact and artistic influence of one special artist and alumna, but also the local community in which TC thrives. Guests stayed into the night enjoying a social gathering that seamlessly brought together several generations at a local eatery, Corner Social. There, they continued to discuss the beautiful pieces by Thomas and other topics including the arts, politics, multi-culturalism, TC's community impact and the wonderful ways in which faculty and their work effortlessly overlap in such a meaningful way. Senior administrators also attended the event, including Vice President of Diversity Janice Robinson, who expressed her support for events like this that showcase the diversity and passion that grows from the TC experience and Vice President of Development and External Affairs Suzanne Murphy, who said she was overjoyed to see a mix of familiar faces as well as first-time event attendees, including several students who took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to network with alumni.

The evening was a true celebration of the TC spirit! Senior Director of Alumni Relations Rosella Garcia says that events of this nature are the number one priority in engaging alumni with TC. Stay tuned for future Arts-focused events, including another private event for alumni on Tuesday, December 13, at the Guggenheim Museum where guests will enjoy exclusive access to the incredible works by TC alumna Agnes Martin (B.A. '42) in a recently mounted retrospective of her career that spanned more than forty years and includes more than 100 of her works. (Read the full New York Times article, The Joy of Reading Between Agnes Martin’s Lines.) Martin is considered one of the great painters of the Abstract Expressionist period and an iconic American artist.

Published Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016

Published Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016

TC Alumni Celebrate the Art of Alumna Alma Thomas at Studio Museum of Harlem

On Thursday, October 20, alumni, students and members of the TC family enjoyed an evening of camaraderie, culture and community in Harlem. President Susan Fuhrman hosted a private tour of the ongoing Alma Thomas exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem in which alumni were treated with special access to the bold expressions of the late inspirational artist and TC alumna (MA '34) through the eyes of Doris Zhou, curator of the exhibit.

During her welcome, President Fuhrman correlated TC's legacy of firsts to those of Alma Thomas who indeed embodied that true spirit of TC. "Alma proved without a doubt that it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. She was nearly 70 when she began her artistic career, and she was 80 when she became the first African-American woman to have a solo show at the Whitney. In 2009, 31 years after her death, her painting Watusi (Hard Edge) was one of just two selected by Michelle Obama and the White House curator to be exhibited during the Obama presidency. And last year, her painting Resurrection became the first work by an African-American woman to hang in the public spaces of the White House as part of the permanent collection.

Alma Thomas (MA '34) at Studio Museum of Harlem
Alma Thomas (MA '34) at Studio Museum of Harlem

Alma’s earlier life was not without its share of firsts either. Most notably, in 1924, Alma became Howard University’s very first fine arts graduate. She spent the next 35 years teaching at the same junior high school in Washington, D.C., somehow managing to earn her master’s at TC along the way."

Professor of Art and Art Education Judy Burton and her former student Mary Anne Rose (EdD '05), who has focused her research on the work of underrepresented artist populations, also shared their insights with the group following the tour.

Rose was married to celebrated African-American artist, Herbert Gentry, a contemporary of Thomas and an influential artist in his own right who also happened to be a close collaborator with Teachers College. "Indeed Gentry was featured in two exhibitions at the Studio Museum in HarlemAn Ocean Apart (1982) and Explorations in the City of Light (1997)." Rose went on to share that she was recently at the preview opening of the new American Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington DC, to see her husband’s work hanging between Henry Ossawa Tanner and Charles White in the section themed as Religion and Spirituality. She reflected, "Indeed I have been aware of the work of many individuals in these museums, to fight for recognition for African-American art and culture. I feel I too have contributed my efforts to this struggle."

Alma Thomas (M.A. ’34)
Alma Thomas (M.A. ’34)

Select paintings from Gentry's Estate have been donated to Teachers College and can also be seen hanging in Grace Dodge Hall.

This colorful evening celebrated not only the impact and artistic influence of one special artist and alumna, but also the local community in which TC thrives. Guests stayed into the night enjoying a social gathering that seamlessly brought together several generations at a local eatery, Corner Social. There, they continued to discuss the beautiful pieces by Thomas and other topics including the arts, politics, multi-culturalism, TC's community impact and the wonderful ways in which faculty and their work effortlessly overlap in such a meaningful way. Senior administrators also attended the event, including Vice President of Diversity Janice Robinson, who expressed her support for events like this that showcase the diversity and passion that grows from the TC experience and Vice President of Development and External Affairs Suzanne Murphy, who said she was overjoyed to see a mix of familiar faces as well as first-time event attendees, including several students who took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to network with alumni.

The evening was a true celebration of the TC spirit! Senior Director of Alumni Relations Rosella Garcia says that events of this nature are the number one priority in engaging alumni with TC. Stay tuned for future Arts-focused events, including another private event for alumni on Tuesday, December 13, at the Guggenheim Museum where guests will enjoy exclusive access to the incredible works by TC alumna Agnes Martin (B.A. '42) in a recently mounted retrospective of her career that spanned more than forty years and includes more than 100 of her works. (Read the full New York Times article, The Joy of Reading Between Agnes Martin’s Lines.) Martin is considered one of the great painters of the Abstract Expressionist period and an iconic American artist.

Published Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016

How This Gift Connects The Dots
 
Scholarships & Fellowships
 
Faculty & Programs
 
Campus & Technology
 
Financial Flexibility
 
Engage TC Alumni & Friends