Hazel T. Barrett

An educator, she collected African-American art and owned a Baltimore gallery for a decade with her daughter.

November 21, 2008|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Hazel T. Barrett, a retired educator and collector of African-American art who also had owned and operated a Baltimore art gallery for a decade, died Mondayof complications from Parkinson's disease at Keswick Multi-Care Center. She was 90.

Hazel Thompson, the daughter of scrap yard owner, was born and raised in Somerset, Pa.

After graduating from Somerset High School in 1936, she enrolled at what is now Morgan State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1940.

She earned a master's degree in education from what is now Coppin State University in 1975.

In 1959, Mrs. Barrett began teaching elementary school students in Baltimore public schools.

She later became a senior teacher of gifted and talented children and joined the faculty of Pimlico Elementary School, from which she retired in 1980.

After retiring, Mrs. Barrett worked as a part-time docent at the Baltimore Museum of Art for the next 13 years, where she was able to indulge her lifelong passion for art.

"She just loved being a docent and eventually began collecting African-American art," said her daughter, Beverly B. Carter, chief administrator of the Circuit Court of Baltimore City and a Mount Washington resident.

While at the BMA, Mrs. Barrett served on the steering committee of the Joshua Johnson Endowment Fund, which raised funds for the purchase of artwork created by black artists.

In 1986, Mrs. Barrett and her daughter opened Objets d'Art Gallery in the 600 block of N. Eutaw St. with an inaugural show that featured the artwork of Romare Bearden, a noted African-American artist and writer.

"My mother and I derived great joy from presenting the work of local artists to the greater Baltimore community," Ms. Carter said.

"She was always excited about art shows when we were able to introduce local artists to the community and give them the opportunity to explain their creative processes and inspiration for their art to potential collectors," she said.

The mother-daughter team also presented African art shows, shows with a jazz theme and shows featuring artwork created by graduate students at the Maryland Institute College of Art.

"They eventually closed the gallery in 1996, when my mother made a career change that resulted in logistical difficulties keeping it open," said Jennifer Carter-Jones, a granddaughter, who lives in Baltimore.

Leslie King-Hammond, founding director of the Center of Race and Culture at the Maryland Institute College of Art, was a friend of Mrs. Barrett's for more than 30 years.

"What a wonderful human being. I first met her when I was a graduate student at Hopkins and went over to the BMA to volunteer as a docent," Dr. King-Hammond said, yesterday. "She was the docent with the longevity and welcomed me with open arms."

Dr. King-Hammond said she learned "a great deal about the Baltimore scene" from her friend.

"She loved being with artists and had such a generosity of spirit, and I was seduced by her infectiousness for their art," she said.

"When it came to collecting, Hazel was a very serious collector who knew what she wanted," she said. "She reveled in the joy of what these works meant to an artist, their country and their legacy."

In 1991, Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke appointed Mrs. Barrett to a four- year term on the city's Civic Design Commission

The longtime Mount Washington resident also served on the Foster Care Review Board and had been a member of the Maryland League of Women's Clubs, Jack and Jill of America, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, YWCA and the Companions Social Club.

Mrs. Barrett was a member of St. James Episcopal Church.

Plans for a memorial service were incomplete.

Also surviving are a sister, Myrtle Koger of Baltimore; three other grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. Her son, George E. Barrett Jr., died this year. Her marriage to George E. Barrett Sr. ended in divorce.

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