Collaboration is a frequent and natural current that flows through the Art Studio. Whether it is a planned collaborative Art project, or it happens naturally among students, collaboration helps students understand the subject matter in a deep, meaningful way and encourages students to think beyond themselves. In Upper Elementary, young artists worked collaboratively on a mural inspired by the artist Alma Thomas.
Alma Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia, 1891 and died in 1978. For 35 years and in a segregated city, she empowered art students at Shaw Junior High School to see beauty in the everyday and brought exhibition opportunities and cultural enrichment to Black youth. Throughout her career as an artist and teacher, she was a leader within her creative community. She created small watercolors, aerial landscapes, and brightly patterned large-scale abstractions that reflect her local surroundings and her fascination with space and the environment. Thomas made history in 1971 by becoming the first Black woman given a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York at age 81, and again in 2015 by becoming the first Black woman to have a work of art acquired by the White House Collection.
After learning about Alma Thomas’ extraordinary career and viewing a range of artworks created by her, Upper Elementary students embarked on a large-scale landscape mural using collage techniques. To begin, students painted a range of warm and cool colors on papers, allowed them to dry, and then cut them into small squares. Then, they mapped out their landscape with pencil and filled in each section with the colored squares according to a color scheme they chose together. When collaborating, the students were interdependent; their work became intertwined throughout the process, resulting in a unique work of art that many hands made together!