Karen Comer Lowe appointed Executive Director of Hammonds House Museum, Atlanta institution known for its collection of African-American art


AN ATLANTA INSTITUTION with a formidable collection of black art, the Hammonds House Museum announced Karen comer lowe is its new managing director and first chief curator.

Comer Lowe has a wide range of experiences in the Atlanta arts scene, having most recently served as director and curator at the Chastain Arts Center. She returns to Hammonds House, where she began her career as a program coordinator 25 years ago. News of his appointment as museum director was announced on June 11. She started working at Hammond House on June 1.

Karen Comer Lowe returns to head the Hammonds House Museum, having served as a program coordinator at the Atlanta Museum early in her career. | Photo by Joeff Davis, courtesy of Hammonds House Museum

“I am delighted to welcome Karen Comer Lowe as the new Executive Director and Chief Curator,” Imara Canady, chair of the board of directors of the Hammonds House Museum, said in a statement. “Her in-depth knowledge of the black visual arts, her expertise in arts administration, her ability to engage with diverse audiences, her commitment to arts education and her bold vision for our future, make her the right fit for follow the path we are on and take the museum to the next level. ”

Comer Lowe has over two decades of experience as a curator, educator, art advisor, and assessor, working with museums, galleries, arts organizations, and collectors. She hosted “The South Got Something to Say,” an outdoor digital exhibit currently on display in downtown Atlanta, from June 1 to July 31. The exhibit features 10 Atlanta-based artists, including Sheila Pree Bright, Alfred Conteh, Kojo Griffin, Yanique Norman, Fahamu Pecou, ​​and Jamele Wright.

For 12 years, Comer Lowe played a central role at the Chastain Arts Center and Gallery as director and curator. Founded in 1968, Chastain is described as Atlanta’s oldest arts center. Under the auspices of the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs, the center offers classes, workshops and exhibits.

Comer Lowe said she studied art history at Howard University and during this time worked in the education department at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery. After graduation, she landed a summer position in the education department at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City.

From there, she was hired by the education department at the Museum of African American Art in Tampa, Florida, and then was curator at the Tubman African American Museum in Macon, Georgia. In Atlanta, Comer Lowe was curator at the City Gallery East, a program of the city’s Office of Cultural Affairs. She then opened her own business, Comer Art Advisory.

In 2009, Comer Lowe co-organized “Undercover: Performing and Transforming Black Female Identities” with Andrea Barnwell Brownlee at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art.

Karen Comer Lowe’s’ in-depth knowledge of black visual arts, expertise in arts administration, ability to engage with diverse audiences, commitment to arts education and bold vision for our future make she’s the right person to follow the trajectory we’re on and take the museum to the next level.
– Imara Canada, Chairman of the Board, Hammonds House Museum

Initially, Comer Lowe was program coordinator at the Hammonds House Museum from 1996 to 1998, during the tenure of Edward S. Spriggs, founder and first executive director of the museum. Spriggs, was Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem from 1969 to 1975. A decade later he was employed by the Fulton County Department of Public Arts when the Doctor’s House was acquired by the County with no concrete plan for its use. . Spriggs presented his idea for an African-American museum and the proposal was accepted. Hammonds House Museum was first called Hammonds House Galleries when it opened in 1988.

The Hammonds House Museum was established with a collection of 250 works by black artists. African masks, paintings by 20 Haitian artists and works of important African-American figures including Benny Andrews, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Sam Gilliam, Jacob Lawrence and Hale Woodruff are included in the original collection.

The funds were raised by Otis Thrash Hammonds, an Atlanta anesthesiologist who purchased a large Victorian house to house his art collection. Shortly after his death in 1985, Fulton County purchased the property and the collection.

In the years that followed, the collection grew to include more than 450 works of art, from pieces dating from the mid-19th century to contemporary works by artists active today, such as Amalia Amaki, Radcliffe Bailey and Kojo Griffin.

Robert Duncanson, generally known as a landscape painter associated with the Hudson River School, is also pictured. The small museum in Atlanta’s historic West End claims to own Duncanson’s oldest known painting, “Portrait of a Mother and Daughter” (1841). Hammonds purchased the work for an unknown amount between the fall of 1979 and the spring of 1980, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The museum’s property of prized artwork captured media attention when President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were presented with “Landscape with Rainbow” (1859), a landscape Duncanson on loan from the Smithsonian, during dedication ceremonies at the United States Capitol on January 20.

In May, Leatrice Ellzy Wright, who served as executive director of the Hammonds House Museum for three years, left after being appointed senior director of programming at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

The latest news at the Atlanta Museum is the arrival of a new Executive Director, who for the first time will also carry the title of Chief Curator.

“As a passionate and passionate Atlanta native arts professional, I am happy to return to the Hammonds House Museum…” Comer Lowe said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing the long history of showcasing and exhibiting Diaspora artists and welcoming everyone to the museum when it reopens to the public. CT

OPENING SOON Hammonds House has been closed since March 2020, due to the COVID-19 virus and is hosting virtual programming in anticipation of the reopening

ON VIEW “Charly Palmer: Departure” is a 30-year retrospective of Atlanta-based artist Charly Palmer. The online exhibition is currently on view from April 30 to August 30. 1, 2021

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