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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art and Community Celebration

The National Gallery joins a citywide celebration of the 130th anniversary of Thomas’s birth, September 22, 2021.

Held in collaboration with the traveling exhibition Alma W. Thomas: Everything is Beautiful and American University’s Feminist Art History Conference, the Wilmerding events will honor the lifelong creative practice and legacy of Alma Thomas (1891–1978) with an emphasis on Washington, DC, history. The exhibition demonstrates how Thomas brought together elements of painting, gardening, interior design, fashion, puppetry, popular music, and theatrical performance in her artmaking and teaching. Thomas dedicated much of her life to education—including as the first degree-recipient of Howard University’s Department of Art, graduate-level art history and painting coursework at American University, and her tenure teaching at Shaw Junior High School (1925–1960). Former First Lady Michelle Obama will introduce the September 22 webinar virtually with remarks on acquiring and living with Thomas’s Resurrection, the first work by an African American woman in the White House Collection.

Celebrate Alma W. Thomas's Legacy

Participate in a video premier, free virtual events, and in-person community events that celebrate the life and legacy of Alma W. Thomas. All events are free; registration is required.

Symposium Events
September 22–23, 2021

Community Celebration
September 24–26, 2021

American University’s Feminist Art History Conference
September 26, 2021

Citywide Partners

The National Gallery is proud to join cultural and educational institutions across Washington, DC in a citywide celebration of Alma Thomas this fall, including American University, DC Public Library, DC Public Schools, Destination DC, Dumbarton Oaks, Howard University, Jon Gann (director of the short documentary Everything Is Beautiful), The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, National Gallery of Art, Office of the Mayor, The Phillips Collection, National Museum of Women in the Arts, and Smithsonian American Art Museum. For more information, visit

Made possible by a grant from the Alice L. Walton Foundation.

Image Credit - Alma Thomas, Photo courtesy Alma Thomas papers, circa 1894-2001, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution