Barbara Earl Thomas

SAV_2017Summer_Exhibitions_Thomas_Portrait_KW_04_BR- WEB COPYBarbara Earl Thomas is a Seattle-based artist who has exhibited professionally since the early 1980s. Her far-ranging exhibits include the Seattle and Tacoma Art Museums, with solo national exhibits at the Meadows Museum in Shreveport, Louisiana and in the Evansville Museum of Art and Technology in Indiana. Her work is included in corporate collections such as Microsoft and Safeco, and regional public collections. She is a graduate of the School of Art, University of Washington where she received her Master of Arts in 1977. She counts herself most fortunate to have had mentorships with Michael Spafford and Jacob Lawrence who have both influenced her work. She will tell you that these two men were not only supportive but crucial friends in her life. As one who also minored in French, Barbara briefly lived abroad in 1975 and ’77, where she studied French in the University of Grenoble foreign study program.

As the daughter of Southerners who came to the Northwest in the 1940s, she is among the first generation in her family born outside of Texas and Louisiana. She credits her southern heritage for her penchant for storytelling and humor. From her mother, Lula Mae, she inherited her love of reading. From her father, Grady, she learned that the truth is better than a lie because human beings are not smart enough to keep multiple story lines untangled. She is a reader and writer who has also published essays on a variety of topics and monographs on artists such as Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, Joe Fedderson, Cappy Thompson, Alan Rohan Crite and Julie Speidel.

Thomas is noted for a social commitment to her community that is broad and inclusive. She values good citizenship and social responsibility that she says she first experienced its rewards as a 4th grader when she was charged with collecting the milk money and overseeing banking day. As an artist, Thomas has a long and consistent practice of including the world in her art and her life in the world. Through her art administrative work in agencies such as the Seattle Arts Commission and Bumbershoot she has given time and energy in support of individual artists in all genres. In 2012 she stepped down from the directorship of the Northwest African American Museum where she was instrumental in creating the agency and the broad-based support that now sustains it.


2000 Flight of the Mind Writer’s Workshop, Oregon
1977 M.F.A., University of Washington, Seattle
1976 University of Grenoble, France
1973 B.A., University of Washington, Seattle

Awards and Honors

2016   Seattle Magazine‘s Hall of Fame, Arts and Culture, Seattle, WA
2016   Governor’s Arts and Heritage Award, Individual Artist Award, Washington State
2016   Stranger Genius Award in Art, Seattle, WA
2016   The Irving and Yvonne Twining Humber Award, Artist Trust, Seattle, WA
2016   Women’s University Club, Brava Award—for exceptional achievements
2015   Artist in Residence, Pilchuck School, Stanwood, WA
2014   Artist in Residence, Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA
2014   Artist in Residence, Goathead Press, Tieton, WA
2013   Mayor’s Arts Award, Office of Arts and Culture, Seattle, WA
2009   Hauberg Fellowship, Pilchuck Glass School, Stanwood, WA
2003   Poster Design Award, Bumbershoot, A Seattle Arts Festival, Seattle, WA
2002   Visual Arts Honors Program, Seattle Collects, Award, Seattle Arts Commission, Seattle                WA
2002   Jack Straw Writer’s Award, Seattle, WA
1999   Hedgebrook Writer’s Residency Retreat, Whidbey, WA
1998/2001   Seattle Artist Writer’s Award, Seattle Arts Commission, Seattle WA
1998/2006   Neddy Award Nominee, The Behnke Foundation, Seattle, WA
1997   Artist Trust Tenth Anniversary Presidents’ Award, Seattle, WA
1996   The Howard S. Wright Award, Seattle Arts Commission, Seattle WA


Public Art Installations

2015 Sound Transit, I-90 Portal interior design project
2011 Story Stones, Portage Bay Park, Seattle, WA
2009 The Story House, Evergreen State College, Washington State Arts Commission, Olympia, WA
2008 Electric Raven, Walden Triangle, Sound Transit, Seattle, WA
2001 Art in Public Places Hatch Cover Design Award – Raven Shouts Water, Seattle, WA

Selected Solo Exhibitions

2017 The Blood Catcher and Other Stories, Claire Oliver Gallery, New York, NY
2016 Heaven on Fire, Bainbridge Island Art Museum, Bainbridge Island, WA
2013 The Reading Room, Prints 2006-2013, Paper Hammer, Seattle, WA
2005 Big Fish, The Meadows Museum, Shreveport, Louisiana
2005 Elements, Evansville Museum of Arts and Science, Evansville, IN
2005 Last Seen: Altar of Memory, an installation, Edmonds Community College Gallery, Edmonds, WA
2003 A Fire in the Landscape, Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA
1998 In Fire and Water, Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA
1997 Barbara Earl Thomas: An Exhibition, Olympic College Art Gallery, Bremerton, WA
1995 The Book of Telling, Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA
1994 The Fallen House, Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, WA
1990 Requiem for a Tilted World, Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA
1990 Talking Back to the Storm:  New Figurative Work by Barbara Thomas, Mitchell Museum, Mt. Vernon, IL
1989 Art Gym:  Gallery 2, Marylhurst College, Marylhurst, OR
1985 Sheehan Gallery, Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA
1984 Recent Work, Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA
1984 Executive Office Gallery, King County Courthouse, Seattle
1983 Art Center Gallery, Seattle Pacific University, Seattle, WA

Selected Group Exhibitions

2017 Lines of Influence, SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA
2017 Dark and Stormy Night, The Gothic in Contemporary Art, Lehman College Art Gallery, Bronx, NY
2017 ExpoChicago, Claire Oliver Gallery, Chicago, Ill
2016 Seattle Art Fair, Woodside/Braseth Gallery, Seattle, WA
2015 Out of Sight, A survey of contemporary art in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle WA
2015 Sterotype, Northwest African American Museum, Seattle WA
2015 Good Neighbor, Seattle University, Seattle WA
2014 Ink This, Contemporary Prints in the Northwest, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma WA
2014 Inner Portraits, Bainbridge Island Art Museum, Bainbridge Is., WA
2013 Best of the Northwest, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA
2010 Safeco Collection, The Wright Space, Seattle, WA
2010 Northwest Women Artists 1880-2010, Whatcom Museum of History and Art,  Bellingham, WA
2009 A Concise History of Northwest Art, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA
2009 What is Black? , Seattle Art Museum
2003 Northwest Traditions, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA
2000 Building Community: Truth & Reconciliation, A Work-in-Progress Part II, Patricia Wismer Women’s Center, Seattle University
1999 Drawing Revisited, Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA
1999 Memory & Mourning: American Expressions of Grief, Washington State History Museum, Tacoma, WA
1999 Civil Progress: Life in Black America, Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, WA
1996 Raven: Icons and Omens, Cornish College of the Arts, Seattle, WA
1996 The Narrative Impulse: Visual Storytelling, Rental Sales Gallery, Seattle Art Museum
1995 Wings, Rental Sales Gallery, Seattle Art Museum
1995 Washington: 100 Years, 100 Paintings, Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, WA
1995 Art Works for AIDS, Seattle Center Pavilion, (also 1990)
1994 A Matter of Colors III, The African Connection, Pacific Arts Center, Seattle Center
1994 The Northwest Art Collection of the Junior League of Seattle, Kinsey Gallery, Seattle University
1993 The Art of Microsoft, Henry Art Gallery, University of Washington, Seattle
1993 XX: An Exhibition on the Occasion of the Women’s Caucus for Art National Conference, Francine Seders Gallery II, Seattle, WA
1992 Documents Northwest, The PONCHO Series: 1492/1992, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
1991 Pleas and Thank Yous: 100 True Stories/Collaborators, Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA
1991 25th Anniversary Exhibitions: The Middle Years II 1981-1983, Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle
1989 Washington to Washington: Women in Art Today, Washington State Museum of Art, Pullman, WA; the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; and The Nordic Heritage Museum, Seattle, WA
1989 Elizabeth Leach Gallery, Portland, OR
1988 School of Art 1975-1988, Safeco Corporation, Seattle, WA
1987 Northwest ’87, Seattle Art Museum
1987 Aesthetics of the American Northwest, The Evans‑Tibbs Collection, Washington, D.C.
1987 Masks: A Contemporary Perspective, Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, WA
1986 Poetry in Art, Francine Seders Gallery, Seattle, WA
1986 Figure: Narrative, Whatcom Museum of History and Art, Bellingham, WA
1985 Seattle Painting 19251985, Bumberbiennale, Seattle, WA


21 Century Museum Hotels, Louisville, KY
4 Culture percent art collection, Seattle, WA
Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA
Sound Transit Authority, Seattle, WA
City of Seattle 1% Collection, Seattle, WA
Junior League of Seattle, Seattle, WA
King County Arts Commission 1% Collection, Seattle, WA
Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, WA
Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, WA
Seattle First National Bank, Seattle, WA
Safeco Corporate Collection, Seattle, WA
Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WA
University Medical Center, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
Walker Richer & Quinn Inc, Seattle, WA
Washington State Arts Commission, Cedar Heights Junior High, Kent School District, Kent, WA
Western Washington State University, Bellingham, WA