Karen Comer Lowe, who began her career as the program coordinator at Hammonds House in 1996, has returned as the museum’s executive director and chief curator. She began work June 1.
Lowe succeeds Leatrice Ellzy Wright, who left in late May after four years, to join the Apollo Theater in Harlem.
Comer Lowe, who most recently has been a freelance curator and adviser, curated the new South Got Something to Say public art exhibition, which can be seen all summer on digital signs in downtown Atlanta. It chose to feature the work of 10 established or emerging artists — Sheila Pree Bright, Jurell Cayetano, Alfred Conteh, Ariel Dannielle, Shanequa Gay, Kojo Griffin, Gerald Lovell, Yanique Norman, Fahamu Pecou and Jamele Wright.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, she worked with internationally known artist Hank Willis Thomas in putting the sculpture All Power to All People in Atlanta as a stop on its national tour.
She’s also built a reputation for supporting Black artists through her Creative Conversations on Instagram.
Comer Lowe’s “deep 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,” said Hammonds House board president Imara Canady in a statement, “make her the right persons to follow the trajectory we are on.”
Comer Lowe has been a visual arts professional for more than 20 years, holding education and curatorial positions at such museums, galleries and arts institutions as the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., the Tubman African American Museum in Macon and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
She has worked with such artists as Amy Sherald, Rashid Johnson, Carrie Mae Weems and Elizabeth Catlett, among many others. She has lectured about artists and art movements throughout the Southeast and given workshops on collecting art. She’s also taught art history at Spelman College and spent 12 years managing and curating the Chastain Arts Center.
She has a B.F.A. in fine arts from Howard University and a master’s degree in museum education from Bank Street College in New York City.
“As an Atlanta native and passionate arts professional, I am pleased to return to Hammonds House Museum,” Comer Lowe said in a statement. “I look forward to continuing the long history of presenting and exhibiting artists of the diaspora and welcoming all to the museum when we reopen to the public.”
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the museum to close in March 2020, although it has continued to offer virtual exhibitions. Comer Lowe, no doubt, will lead the reopening effort.
Hammonds House, in Atlanta’s historic West End, celebrates and shares the cultural diversity and legacy of artists of African descent. The nonprofit opened in 1988 and is named for the late Otis Thrash Hammonds, a physician and arts patron who once lived there.
The museum’s permanent collection comprises more than 450 works, including art by such heavy-hitters as Amalia Amaki, Benny Andrews, Radcliffe Bailey, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Kojo Griffin, Jacob Lawrence and Hale Woodruff.