One way to learn about Black history with kids is to study famous African-American artists and create art inspired by their work. Here are discussion points about Alma Woodsey Thomas and a mosaic project inspired by her artistry. Supplies and instructions are provided for both a paint and a mosaic version of the project.
Discussion Points for Parents/Teachers
- Alma Woodsey Thomas, an African-American artist, was the first fine arts graduate of Howard University (in 1921).
- Thomas spent 38 years teaching art to middle school students in Washington D.C. before retiring and becoming a “serious artist” when she was in her 70s.
- Alma Thomas is known for her colorful abstract art that looks like a mosaic.
- Her work has been displayed in many prominent museums and locations, including the Smithsonian and The White House.
- In 1972 Alma Thomas was the first African-American woman to have a solo art exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City (she was in her 80s at the time).
White construction paper or cardstock (I used 9” x 12”)
To do a paint project:
Tempera paint in bright colors
Sponge “brush” (make one with a clothespin and small square of new sponge) or paintbrush
To do a paper collage:
Colored construction paper
For the paint project:
- Paint a small circle (3” to 4”) in the middle of the paper, then rinse the sponge brush (or paintbrush).
- Dip the sponge in a second paint color, then dab in a circular motion around the circle.
- Continue to paint in a radial fashion around each previous circle.
- You can choose to alternate each row of color or paint several rows of one color before moving on to the next.
- Allow to dry thoroughly, then frame, if desired.
OR, for the collage project:
- Cut a circle about 3 inches in diameter. Glue onto your white paper. You can place it in the center or offset it.
- Cut a bunch small rectangles and squares (about ½” to 1”) in several colors.
- Glue the paper squares around the circle in a radial fashion. Alternate each row of color or make several rows of one color before moving on to the next.
- You can leave a border around the edge of your piece or glue squares all the way to the edge of the paper.
- Laminate for a colorful placemat that lasts.
- Create an image on large newsprint or craft paper and use it as giftwrap.
Learn about African-American artist Faith Ringgold and create a story collage inspired by her work at www.sandiegofamily.com/for-the-kids/crafts-for-kids/black-history-collage-project.
Alyssa Navapanich is a nationally recognized art educator who teaches art to elementary school kids in East San Diego County. She is the author of San Diego Family Magazine’s “Art with Alyssa” column.