October 7, 2020
Dear Spelman Community,
We write with some bittersweet news. After nineteen and a half years as director of the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, C’93, is leaving Spelman. On Dec. 1, she will assume the position of the George W. and Kathleen I. Gibbs Director and chief executive officer of the Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville, Florida. Please join us in wishing Dr. Barnwell Brownlee well and applauding this next step in her distinguished museum career.
Dr. Barnwell Brownlee leaves a Spelman Museum that gained a stellar reputation under her leadership, not only in Atlanta but worldwide. She is widely known for innovative exhibitions that focus on Black women artists and their heritage. Consistently cited as a must-see destination in Atlanta, the Museum has also been a linchpin in the College’s core curriculum, providing an important resource to African Diaspora in the World, a foundation for curatorial studies and many other liberal arts disciplines.
In addition to its exciting schedule of groundbreaking exhibitions, the Museum has benefitted from Dr. Barnwell Brownlee’s choices for its permanent collection. Over her nearly two decades of service, she and her extraordinary team have built the collection into a potent teaching resource as well as a repository of important works by contemporary Black women artists. Dr. Barnwell Brownlee has been an important part of the College’s intellectual life by consistently introducing us to leading artists, curators and scholars who provide insights into the way in which art and artists define our understanding of the world, past and present. Her conversations were always well attended, much anticipated events at Spelman.
A crowning achievement has been Dr. Barnwell Brownlee’s development of the curatorial studies program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This program introduced countless students throughout the Atlanta University Center to the art world, the processes of art making and to the ways in which artifacts are collected, preserved, interpreted and presented privately and institutionally.
We are grateful for her pioneering efforts. Her work has been a critical prelude to the establishment of the AUC Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective. Dr. Barnwell Brownlee’s energies have drawn collectors and arts patrons to Spelman in a circle of long-standing support of her work. We know they join Spelman students, faculty and staff in celebrating her good fortune.
In the coming weeks, Spelman will establish interim leadership and launch a national search for the Museum’s future director.
Please join us in sending our warmest wishes to Dr. Barnwell Brownlee, her daughter Isabella and husband Edward for success and joy as they begin this exciting new phase of her life and career. As she leaves, we hope she knows how much she will be missed and how much she is loved by her Spelman family.
Mary Schmidt Campbell, Ph.D.
President, Spelman College
Sharon Davies, J.D.
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs