Thelma Johnson Streat to be honored at 2010 Commencement

May 16, 2010

Pacific Northwest College of Art will honor the life and work of Thelma Johnson Streat be awarding her a Doctor of Art Honoris Causa degree at the 2010 Commencement Ceremony. The honorary degree will be presented to her family.

Thelma Johnson Streat (1911-1959) was a painter, dancer, designer and educator internationally-known in the mid-twentieth century for her visual and performance art. She is an early alumna of the College having taken classes at Pacific Northwest College of Art, then known as the Museum Art School, during 1934-35. Streat went on to be the first African-American woman to have her work in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

When she began her professional career as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) artist at San Francisco’s Pickle Factory, she worked with muralist Diego Rivera who became one of her most ardent supporters. Streat also pioneered work to promote intercultural understanding with a focus towards youth. She was fascinated with the power of indigenous cultures to teach understanding, tolerance, and appreciation of diversity. As she traveled around the world, her work rose to international success. Her realist paintings also evolved into more abstract pieces as she widely embraced the music, dance, and symbols of the various cultures she lived with and studied.