Where do we go from here?

500 17th St. NW Washington, DC. The historic building was established as a private art gallery to house the extensive collection of Washington banker and philanthropist, William Wilson Corcoran (partner of the bank Corcoran & Riggs). Today, the Corcoran is a College of Art and Design and a gallery displaying one of the most comprehensive collections of American art in the world.

The Corcoran College of Art + Design is currently involved in a lengthy process of finding it’s new identity after an announcement of a possible sale was made on June 4, 2012. The board of trustees, who all donate a total of 25K to be a part of the board, have a long history of poor decisions and bad management choices dating back to 2007 which include millions of dollars spent on a Frank Ghery design that never came to fruition. In 2009, there was a possibility of the College side being shut down until the board realized that the College was providing a large part of the overall operating budget for the institution.

The announcement of possible sale, made after the student body left for the summer, is seen by some as a strategic move, and by others a “cowardly back room deal” that was made and decided upon without any consultation or engagement of the student body. Many students are outraged at the potential sale and some have gone so far as protesting via art within the institution.

A separate organization has formed, www.savethecorcoran.org, and is headed up by Jayme McClellon, who is currently an adjunct professor at The Cororan and also the owner/operator of Civillian Art Projects, a museum space in Washington, D.C. This new and separate organization has been  instrumental in furthering the conversation and goal of NOT selling the flagship building. Her group has garnered large donor support and participants numbering over 3000 people. All of which do not want to donate funds until the current board members and leadership of the entire institution have changed. Many of these donors do not want to “throw good money after bad” given the track record that the board; most don’t see it as a sound investment.

Within the past few weeks, there has been a mobilization of the student body under a closed FaceBook group (open only to students to engender open and honest dialogue). The group is called Students Stay Sane and has come together to work towards a better future for The Corcoran; one that doesn’t include selling the building. This new movement has hopes that they can work in conjunction with the board as well as drive the overall perception of the institution from negative to positive.  This group is starting to work on a video that showcases why all the students love The Corcoran and want to attract others to seek a degree here. Additionally, some students will be manning a phone bank in cooperation with the Admissions department at The Corcoran where they will be calling recent applicants and prospective students to tout all the great things about the school.

The SaveTheCorcoran group has been working for over 5 months and  has sent numerous requests for information to the board who has yet to reply. On October 16, 2012, a letter from the Students Stay Sane Group was hand delivered to Harry Hopper, Chairman of the board of trustees, requesting a meeting between him and representatives from the Students Stay Sane Group. Mr. Hopper agreed and a meeting was schedule for October 26, 2012 (updates from that meeting to follow in another blog post).

Recently, The Corcoran has entered into conversation and negotiations with George Washington University and The National Gallery of Art. The intent is to partner with these organizations in a way that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved aside from any monetary connections. Catherine Armour, Provost at The Corcoran, has stated that these talks are just that, talks. She has had only 1 meeting with George Washington University thus far and the overall goal from these talks is a better partnership between these two institutions where they both benefit yet each still retains it’s own independence.

Disclosure – this blogger is a student at The Corcoran College of Art+Design and a member of the Students Stay Sane group.


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