Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens selects new director from Spelman College

Noble Horvath

Andrea Barnwell Brownlee will take over as director of Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in December.  © Bob Self/Florida Times-Union The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, shown in June 2019, announced its new director, Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, on Wednesday. Browlee has been director of the Spelman College Museum […]

Andrea Barnwell Brownlee will take over as director of Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in December. 



a large lawn in front of a house: The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, shown in June 2019, announced its new director, Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, on Wednesday.


© Bob Self/Florida Times-Union
The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, shown in June 2019, announced its new director, Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, on Wednesday.

Browlee has been director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art in Atlanta for nearly 20 years. 

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The Cummer has been searching for a new director since March when Adam Levine left. Kerrie Slattery, who has served as interim director, will return to her role as chief advancement officer when Brownlee arrives.

A search committee made up of eight museum trustees recommended Brownlee. The museum used executive search firm Phillips Oppenheim, which recruited Brownlee.

Pam Paul, chairwoman of the museum’s board of trustees, said about 10 candidates were considered for the position and that Brownlee stood out from the rest of the field. 

“What stands out about her is that she has 20 years as an award-winning, visionary museum leader with a national reputation for the way she has strategically positioned Spelman College Museum of Fine Art,” Paul said. “She really has a sense of how to position a museum to heighten its reputation and visibility.”



a person holding a cup: Andrea Barnwell Brownlee will take over as director of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in December.


© Provided by Cummer Museum
Andrea Barnwell Brownlee will take over as director of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in December.

Paul said Brownlee visited the museum in 2018 when the Spelman museum loaned a piece to the Cummer for the Augusta Savage: Renaissance Woman exhibit.

“She said ‘I want to make the Cummer Museum a destination,'” Paul said. “She thinks that it could be so much more.”

Brownlee will be the George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs director and chief executive officer, a position endowed in 2017 by a $4 million gift from The Disosway Foundation of New York.

More: Jacksonville philanthropy makes latest donation to $80 million MOSH 2.0 expansion

Brownlee holds a Ph.D. in art history from Duke University and undergraduate degrees in English and art history from Spelman College. She was a MacArthur Curatorial Fellow at the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art from 1998-2000 and received the Future Women Leadership Award from Art Table and the President’s Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art in 2005, the inaugural Nexus Award from the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center in 2010 and the David C. Driskell Prize in African American Art and Art History in 2013. She has served as senior strategist for the Atlanta University Center Art History and Curatorial Studies Collective since 2019.

Paul said Brownlee fits in well with the Cummer’s strategic plan, which emphasizes quality of growth and excellence in collections, gardens, curatorial programming and operations.

“We were looking for someone who really had the experience and the affinity with the vision that we held,” Paul said. “The person that we chose we thought was by far the highest quality.”

The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art bills itself as “The only museum in the nation emphasizing art by and about women of the African Diaspora.” It is part of Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college in Atlanta. The museum has been closed since March due to the COVID-19 outbreak and will remain closed at least through the end of 2020.

The Cummer, located between Riverside Avenue and the St. Johns River, was also shut down in March when COVID-19 started to spread. It reopened on a limited basis in July. Museum visitors must now reserve a timed ticket. 

Paul said the museum is on solid footing despite a sharp drop in attendance. The Cummer received a federal Payroll Protection Program loan to cover its costs during the shutdown.

About 5,000 people visited the Cummer last month, down from around 14,000 the previous September. “We are not overly reliant on admissions for revenue; the majority of our revenue comes from private donors,” Paul said. “We were successful in raising private donations in the past year and we have a pretty healthy endowment.”

The Cummer has emphasized online lectures and programming this year and will continue to do so in the future. “We really have to step it up as far as our digital offerings,” Paul said. “You should see a lot more of that next year.”



a room with a large mirror: The Cummer Museum began its phase two of reopening on July 21 permitting visitors to access the indoor galleries and exhibitions, while following specific health precautions.


© Emily Felts/Florida Times-Union
The Cummer Museum began its phase two of reopening on July 21 permitting visitors to access the indoor galleries and exhibitions, while following specific health precautions.

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens selects new director from Spelman College

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