FreerangeFriday: Discovering Alma W. Thomas

by Lilly Lewin
Alma Thomas paintings

by Lilly Lewin

As we journey towards Easter this year, we are watching for how God gives us Beauty in the Ashes.

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives

and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a] 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes,
the oil of joy

instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor. ISAIAH 61: 1-3 NIV

A couple of weeks ago, during our ART WALK, I discovered a new to me artist who was all about bringing BEAUTY into our world, even when the world wasn’t always beautiful.  Her name is ALMA THOMAS. Art and Theology blog has a great post on Alma.

ART WALK has been a part of our church practice since we started thinplace as a house church back in our Cincinnati days. We go as a group to the art museum and listen to a passage of scripture and then we have an hour or more to go be with the art and allow the Holy Spirit to take us wherever the Holy Spirit wants to go. You might visit many areas of the museum or stand in front of one painting for the entire time. It just depends upon the day and how the Spirit is leading. Then we meet back together for lunch or dinner to discuss what we noticed, what we saw and what God talked to us about through the art.

This time we met at the Frist Art Museum here in Nashville for art walk. I spent the first part of my time walking through the exhibit downstairs “On the Horizon: Contemporary Cuban Art from the Perez Art Museum in Miami.” There were many amazing pieces but due to the political climate of Cuba, a lot of the art was dark and felt like walking through ashes, especially because of the invasion of Ukraine. So I decided to wander upstairs to see what might be there.

Air View of a Spring Nursery alma thomas

“Air View of a Spring Nursery ” by Alma W Thomas

WOW! what a difference a flight of stairs made! The works of Alma W. Thomas jumped off the wall in beautiful color!  The exhibit itself is called “EVERYTHING IS BEAUTIFUL”  and it is a retrospective of Ms. Thomas amazing life. I sadly had never heard of her or seen any of work before this day, but now I am a huge fan! I love that she was the first graduate in Art from Howard University in Washington, DC. I love that she spent 35 years as a teacher, teaching art at Shaw Junior High School and I love that she lead a group called ” The Sunday Afternoon Beauty Club” at her church,  helping students experience art, creativity and find beauty in their lives! What if every church had a Sunday Afternoon Beauty Club?

While she was always involved in the arts in DC and active as an artist, she really didn’t concentrate on painting until after she retired from teaching. She experimented with color and abstract forms, but she didn’t discover her bold brushwork style until she was preparing for a  solo show at Howard University when she was 75 years old. She was inspired by the light coming through the leaves of the holy tree in her yard. The patterns of light gave her the idea for what became her signature style called “Alma’s stripes.” When Alma was 80 years old, she became the first Black woman to have a solo exhibit of her work at the Whitney Museum of  American Art in New York City. I love that she kept learning and painting all her life! She even devised a way to paint when her body got to tired and it was hard to move easily.  Alma died in February of 1978 at 87. Her art got a new lease on life and became popular again, when the Obamas added her work ” Resurrection” to the White House Collection and hung it in the Old Family dining room for everyone to enjoy who ate there. Watch the video below to learn more!

CREATION alma thomas

CREATION alma thomas


Watch a great video on ALMA and let her become your new favorite artist too!
Try some ART and Create some BEAUTY inspired by Alma Thomas on your own!
create your own

create your own

Grab some paper and some crayons or markers and LISTEN to the podcast and follow the instructions:  DRAW TOGETHER with Wendy Mac

or grab some paints and watch and follow

LISTEN : Alma  found beauty in music too! LISTEN to the some of music Alma used to paint to on this spotify playlist created for the art exhibit by the Chrysler Museum of Art. “ALMA THOMAS Everything is Beautiful”
Which of Alma Thomas’s paintings speak to you?
What other artist inspires you to see beauty in our world?
Take time between now and Easter and visit an art museum or art gallery and allow God to speak to you through the art.
READ Why Beauty Matters in Wartime
Watch for Beauty in the Ashes!
They Laid Him in the Tomb by Alma Thomas

They Laid Him in the Tomb by Alma Thomas


“The ashes on our head remind us that we are dust and to dust we will return. Yet upon this dust of ours,
God blew his Spirit of life. So we should no longer live our lives chasing dust, chasing things that are here today and gone tomorrow.
Let us return to the Spirit the Giver of Life, let us return to the Fire that resurrects our ashes.”

If you are interested in learning more about ART WALKS or having me lead one in your town, just email me at and watch for thinplace soul care retreats including ART WALKS coming soon!

©lillylewin and

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