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The Jewel of the West End

Hammonds House Gets a New Executive Director and Curator Karen Comer Lowe

Article by Erikka Searles Mitchell

Photography by Jlenz and Provided

Originally published in SOFU Lifestyle

Karen Comer Lowe has a vision. And it’s no small thing. She wants the Hammonds House to be a regular destination for your family locally and for Atlanta tourists alike. She visibly cringes when people call the museum a “Hidden Gem.”  Since before she started the position as the Executive Director and Chief Curator there on June 1, she has wanted the Hammonds House to be a part of your regular Art Walk, the preface to your trip to the High, part of your date night Art Crawl in Castleberry Hill, or your class field trip.

Your experience begins outside the building with quotes that position you in the context. “As curator, I can interpret the artist’s voice, to give you a deeper understanding and take you to a place you didn’t know you could go. “This summer Lowe curated an outdoor exhibition entitled, “The South Got Something to Say,” referencing the pointed words of Andre 3000. “This phrase issued a proclamation about the rising impact of Atlanta as a city. Since that time, the city has risen as an influential force in music, film and politics,” said Lowe in a previous interview.  But where this show displayed Atlanta-based artists like Sheila Pree Bright and Dr. Fahamu Pecou and the ways they interpreted technology, the exhibit at Hammonds House is decidedly low key.  The new exhibition features the museum’s permanent collection. My mouth was hanging open as I perused the space. “This is the foundation of African American Art,” says Lowe. The exhibit features Charles White, Jacob Lawrence, and Elizabeth Catlett.

Lowe has an impressive resume, working most recently at the Chastain Arts Center. She has built relationships with dozens of artists. My favorite spot in the museum is the room that features Mildred Thompson. Imagine my surprise when Lowe told me that she was actually Thompson’s neighbor and that they shared many friendly chats. Another favorite spot was the installation of Romare Bearden works. Lowe painstakingly reframed many of these pieces that were falling into disrepair in storage.  

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we do many things and visiting museums is one of them. Groups are welcome and encouraged to call ahead and make a reservation. Masks are required and social distancing is encouraged. The exhibition comes alive with QR codes on the wall bringing some of the artists to life and also with the documentaries in the back section. Go explore the Hammonds House and see the Jewel of the West End for yourself.

“Exhibiting Culture: Highlights from the Hammonds House Museum Collection” is on display through January 30, 2022. Hammonds House Museum’s mission is to celebrate and share the cultural diversity and important legacy of artists of African descent. The museum is the former residence of the late Dr. Otis Thrash Hammonds, a prominent Atlanta physician and passionate arts patron. A 501(c)3 organization, the museum offers rotating exhibitions, artist talks, exhibition tours, arts education programs, family days, virtual programs, and other cultural events throughout the year. Located in a beautiful Victorian home in West End, Atlanta, Hammonds House Museum is a cultural treasure and a unique venue. To learn how you can support their mission and programming, or become a member, or plan your visit, go to the website: HammondsHouse.org.   

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