October 7, 2020

After an extensive national search, the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens (Cummer Museum) is pleased to announce the selection of Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., as the institution’s next George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Brownlee has served as the director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta, Georgia, for nearly 20 years. She will begin her new role in December 2020.

“Since our search process began, the Board sought candidates who shared our vision for the future of the Cummer Museum. Dr. Brownlee is widely known for her impactful leadership and significant exhibition agendas. We are eager to work with her to ensure the Cummer Museum continues to serve our community and beyond to the very best of its ability. We extend our warmest welcome to Dr. Brownlee, an esteemed museum leader who represents all that the Cummer Museum has become — and what we are actively becoming through the broadening of our collection, programs and initiatives,” said Pam D. Paul, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “Her commitment to strengthening engagement with our current stakeholders and future partners, as well as her thoughtful approach to enhancing the Museum experience for all in our community, stood strong as we focused on the strategic goals set forth by our Board of Trustees.”

Brownlee earned her Ph.D. in Art History from Duke University in 2001. As an undergraduate at Spelman College, she earned dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in English and Art History. She is an alumna of the Getty Leadership Institute.

“I am honored to lead the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens — a forward-thinking institution that is prepared to meet the opportunities and challenges of this unprecedented time,” said Brownlee. “I anticipate working in collaboration with a variety of partners and stakeholders — both existing and new — to expand its footprint as the jewel of Jacksonville and an exceptional cultural resource for the region, the nation and the world.”

Brownlee, an award-winning art historian, curator, educator and writer, is recognized for her wise leadership, ambitious vision and influential publications. She was an instrumental member of the leadership team that piloted the Curatorial Studies Program at Spelman College, which was funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In 2019, she expanded her efforts to educate the next generation of museum professionals by assuming a dual role as the Senior Strategist for the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective. Prior to her arrival at Spelman College, she was a MacArthur Curatorial Fellow at The Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art (1998-2000). She is also a recipient of the Future Women Leadership Award from Art Table (2005), the President’s Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art (2005), the inaugural Nexus Award from the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2010) and the David C. Driskell Prize in African American Art and Art History (2013). In addition to her work with Spelman College and the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective, Brownlee is a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors — a role that has shaped her international perspective on issues-driven museum leadership. She has served on numerous boards throughout her career, including the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts and Sciences and the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund. In 2008, she served as the Vice Chair of the City of Atlanta Arts Funding Task Force.

Susan Towler, Vice Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees, led a search committee that comprised eight Museum trustees.

“Our search committee had the opportunity to meet several excellent candidates, and it was clear that Dr. Brownlee was the most qualified with the right experience, passion and enthusiasm to accelerate the Museum’s position as a world-class destination,” said Towler. “Her strategic vision for the Museum aligned with ours, and we are confident that her arrival will mark a period of dynamic growth.”

Kerrie Slattery, who has served as interim director during the search process, will resume her position as Chief Advancement Officer when Brownlee arrives to assume her position full time.

“Kerrie has skillfully led the Museum during one of the most challenging periods in modern history. Her dedication and stability were critical to our navigation of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as helping guide us through the social unrest facing our nation and community. We are thankful for her steady hand leading the Cummer Museum throughout this time,” said Paul.

The George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs Director and Chief Executive Officer position is endowed through a gift made in 2017 of $4 million from The Disosway Foundation of New York. The foundation was established by Dudley D. Johnson, a former Museum trustee whose grandfather, George W. Gibbs, influenced the development of Jacksonville during the first half of the 20th century. Gibbs was an inventor and shipbuilder who founded the Gibbs Gas Engine Company, which became the Gibbs Corporation. Gibbs is noted for championing the building of the Main Street Bridge, connecting Downtown to the Southbank of the St. Johns River. Proceeds from the endowment fund the Director and CEO position in perpetuity, and additional funds the endowment raises in its future growth are earmarked for Museum operations and programs.

This press release was produced by The JAX Chamber. The views expressed here are the author’s own.