Create a collage inspired by Alma Woodsey Thomas

Alma Thomas collage

Objective: To learn about African American artist Alma Woodsey Thomas, and create a collage that is inspired by her work.

Art History:

Alma Thomas

Photo by Ida Jervis; Alma Thomas papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

Thomas was born in Columbus, Georgia, the oldest of four girls. In 1907, her family moved to Washington, D.C., seeking relief from the racial violence in the South. Though segregated, the nation’s capital still offered more opportunities for African Americans than most cities in those years.

As a girl, Thomas dreamed of being an architect and building bridges, but there were few women architects a century ago. Instead, she attended Howard University, becoming its first fine arts graduate in 1924. In 1924, Thomas began a 35-year career teaching art at a D.C. junior high school. She was devoted to her students and organized art clubs, lectures, and student exhibitions for them. Teaching allowed her to support herself while pursuing her own painting part-time.

Thomas’s early art was realistic, though her Howard professor James V. Herring and peer Loïs Mailou Jones challenged her to experiment with abstraction. When she retired from teaching and was able to concentrate on art full-time, Thomas finally developed her signature style.

She debuted her abstract work in an exhibition at Howard in 1966, at the age of 75. 

Thomas’ abstractions have been compared with Byzantine mosaics, the Pointillist technique of Georges Seurat, and the paintings of the Washington Color School, yet her work is quite distinctive.

Thomas became an important role model for women, African Americans, and older artists. She was the first African American woman to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Whitney Museum of American Art, and she exhibited her paintings at the White House three times.

To learn more about Alma Woodsey Thomas click here.




  • Colored paper, magazine pages, old homework paper, wrapping paper, etc. You will need at least 5 colors.
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • A piece of paper to glue your collage to, it can be white, black, or colored.
  • A ruler (optional)

Step 1: Gather your materials

Step 2: Fold your paper into even rows and cut with scissors or tear it with a ruler as a guide, then tear the paper rows into squares. It doesn’t matter what size.

Step 3: Organize your squares by color.

Step 4: Think about Alma Thomases paintings, and how her paint strokes look like squares of color. Below are some examples of her work. Example 1 is a circle-shaped pattern, example 2 is lines of color, and example 3 is more abstract blocks of color. What kind of design do you want to make? Think about your design then draw with your glue the first line or shape you want to begin with. Keep adding your rows of paper around your first shape. 

Example 1: Snoopy Sees Earth Wrapped in Sunset

Example 2: Resurrection

Example 3: Azaleas

Step 5: Fill up your paper with your squares, and let dry.

Step 6: Take a photo of your collage and share it with us by tagging the MAC on social media and using #ArtShareMAC!, or email us your photo to and we will share it for you!



Leave a Comment