The latest developments and progress regarding Save The Corcoran's efforts.

STC Endorses Wayne Reynolds

Save The Corcoran Endorses Wayne Reynolds, former Chairman of Ford’s Theatre, as New Board Chair of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Corcoran College of Art + Design – Philanthropist brings ideas, quality, resources, and a credible track record in reinventing historic institutions.

Wayne Reynolds has a vision for a future Corcoran. His track record at Ford’s Theatre and other endeavors indicates that he can take on a struggling institution and create something thriving.  He believes in the Corcoran and has a desperately-needed vision to transform it into an innovative creative center dedicated to art and arts education.

Mr. Reynolds’ tenure as Chairman of Ford’s Theatre Society Board of Trustees has been widely acclaimed. He advocated for expanding the Society’s educational programming and transforming Ford’s Theatre into a center for learning dedicated to the life and legacy of Abraham Lincoln. His vision resulted in the development of the Center for Education and Leadership and a campaign that turned Tenth Street into a campus where Lincoln’s legacy lives. He also established a $50 million endowment to support the institution into the future, and a thriving board of trustees.

Currently, Mr. Reynolds serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the American Academy of Achievement, one of America’s foremost motivation and recognition groups. Under his leadership, the Academy has expanded to include the Museum of the American Dream, Achievement Television Network and the annual International Achievement Summit, which brings together leaders and scholars to share their experience in diverse disciplines with graduate students from across the globe. More than 10,000 students have participated in the Academy’s Salute to Excellence program, and many have received scholarships through the Academy’s sponsorship.


Renewing a Sense of Urgency For the Corcoran’s Future

Our endorsement of Mr. Reynolds comes amidst a concerning period of perceived inaction by the Corcoran Board. In December 2012, after deliberation over a “futures process,” the Board announced it would not sell the historic Earnest Flagg building that houses the Corcoran. However, leaders have still failed to announce any plan for the future.

Corcoran leaders began meeting with Mr. Reynolds in December. Despite his clear qualifications and the Corcoran’s own promises for greater transparency in sharing a new course of action, leaders have once again stalled the process by cancelling its scheduled March board meeting.

“The time to act is now,” according to Terrance Shanahan, Corcoran member, STC leader, and local attorney. “We can no longer sit on the sidelines and let the current board meet in committees and subcommittees while the coffers drain and potential supporters dwindle. The Corcoran’s future starts now. And it starts with Wayne.”


Preserving a Legacy During a Time of Change

Recognizing that the Corcoran will and must transform under Mr. Reynold’s leadership, STC issues the following aspirations for any new leader of the institution:

•    The institution must continue to adhere to its fundamental values and retain its core identity as it moves forward, including a dedication to art and arts education.
•    As engraved on its building and central to its historic mission, the Corcoran’s educational initiatives and programs must be built around art.
•    A brain trust of experts–from within and without the institution–must be consulted before moving ahead with substantive change.
•    The Corcoran must maintain its fundamental commitments to educating students in a teacher-driven environment, educating the public through world-class museum exhibitions and public programs, and preserving the core of its historic collection of art.

It’s time for the Corcoran to say goodbye to the mistakes of the past and hello to the opportunities plentiful before it. It cannot do this by making irrevocable decisions that jeopardize its independence, or by waiting any longer for that future to begin. It should not decide to sell buildings or partner with local universities simply out of desperation. It must instead get healthy and choose strategic partners based on a bold mission and vision. To do otherwise would only represent further failures of leadership. Unfortunately, the current board has not yet articulated either. It’s time to move forward with the Corcoran’s future.

For further reading, please view David Montgomery’s article in the Washington Post: “Wayne Reynolds, former Ford’s Theatre chair, pitches to save Corcoran Gallery”

For questions or comments, please contact: Tom Murphy (202) 368-8571
or email:  savethecorcoran@gmail.com


About Save the Corcoran

Save the Corcoran is a non-profit organization comprised of a broad community of trustees, donors, artists, students, faculty, alumni and supporters, united to oppose the sale of the National Historic Landmark Building that has housed the Corcoran since 1897. Proposing a more open and honest dialogue about the institution’s future, the group is rooted in a sincere effort to collaborate with Corcoran leadership on a solution that will address the gallery’s needs while maintaining its historic home and identity.
www.SaveTheCorcoran.org

The Corcoran Must Reinvent

The Corcoran Gallery and School of Art and Design in Washington, D.C. does two things well: it displays art to the public and it educates artists and other creative thinkers about art and ideas. It tells us of our past while encouraging visions of the future.

Corcoran leaders must now commit themselves to the institution’s own future. They must commit themselves to reinventing with a bold vision for that future. And they must commit themselves to appointing the appropriate leaders to take on this task.


A Teachable Moment for a Learning Institution

No matter what challenges it has faced in the past, the Corcoran has consistently and steadfastly presented exhibitions to educate students and the public. Thanks to the dedication of its staff and faculty and the vision of its founder, there is much to be proud of about the Corcoran. Recent issues, however, have made it evident that the Corcoran must transform and adapt, to become a honed and compelling institution – something real and needed in an evolving society.

We have learned through the near selling of the cherished Ernest Flagg building that houses both the school and the museum, that it is expensive to run and maintain an historic building. We have learned that it can be challenging to maintain a unique identity in a city as rich in culture as Washington, D.C.  And we have learned that the failures of poor leadership can hamper the good will of the community.

But we have also learned that the communitiy still passionately loves the Corcoran and the building that houses it. We have learned that of all of the Corcoran’s challenges, none of them is insurmountable.  And now, our leaders must also learn that to reinvent means to embrace a larger vision.


Defining the Role of the Museum in the 21st Century

Today, art is not limited to objects on the wall, it is about the ideas that inform them. Art is what happens when ideas are exchanged and shared and put forth into the world. Art asks questions to solve problems.

Building upon existing programs, exhibitions, and curriculum, the Corcoran should merge into one institution that builds upon its legacy and embraces the essence of the art idea to embrace what is needed now. Through a blending of the goals of the college and museum, the Corcoran will become a leader of creative inquiry, educating students and the broader community about pressing social issues. Guided by its legacy of nearly 150 years and its breathatking collection of thousands of masterworks, it will continue to be a keeper of American culture from which we can learn.

This inspired museum – a center of the arts ecosystem – could regain its independence and flourish as a risk-taking, innovative, yet deeply-rooted America institution. As one of the few private museums in a city full of federally-funded institutions slowed by bureaucracy, the Corcoran is uniquely positoned to embrace difficult topics and, if presented well, afford transformation and understanding. Through the merging of education and art, we have a chance to rebuild the Corcoran into a shining light of creativity.


Preserving Our Past While Leading the Future

It’s time for the Corcoran to say goodbye to the mistakes of the past and hello to the opportunities plentiful before it. It cannot do this by making irrevocable decisions that jeopardize its independence. It should not decide to sell buildings or partner with local universities simply out of desperation. It must instead get healthy and choose strategic partners based on a bold mission and vision. To do otherwise would only represent further failures of leadership.  Unfortunately, they have not yet articulated either.

The solutions to remain an independent institution of Washington exist. Corcoran leaders must only be brave enough to implement them.

 

 

Corcoran Gallery of Art to Remain in Historic Washington Home

STATEMENT FROM SAVE THE CORCORAN IN RESPONSE TO THE CORCORAN’S DECISION TO STAY IN THE HISTORIC FLAGG BUILDING

Save the Corcoran, a community coalition of Corcoran alumni, current and former faculty, members, arts leaders, artists, educators, and business professionals who care deeply about the fate of the institution, issues the following statement today:

Save the Corcoran is extremely pleased to learn that Corcoran leaders have voted to keep the museum in the historic Flagg Building that has housed the Corcoran since 1897.  Read the full article here.  We applaud Corcoran leaders for listening to the D.C. arts community’s grave concerns about the proposed sale of the building and relocation of the museum, and we commend them for honoring their commitment to keeping all options on the table with regard to finding sustainable solutions.

Moving forward, Save the Corcoran urges Corcoran leaders to extend that commitment to the community.  Corcoran leadership will face several critically important decisions over the next several months about the future of this great institution.  It is equally important that leaders commit to standing with the community as those decisions are made, communicating transparently and in the spirit of collaboration.

Save the Corcoran will be happy to work with the Trustees to make the Corcoran whole and healthy again, and we are honored to have been invited to meet with them next week.  As part of that effort, Save the Corcoran recommends the immediate reconstitution of leadership with a progressive, innovative vision that will leverage the resources the institution needs for long-term health and sustainability.  It would be our pleasure to lend our time and talents to such an effort.

As Save the Corcoran has stated throughout this crisis, the power of any cultural institution is in the community that supports it.  The Corcoran community is ready and waiting to work together and support you.


About Save the Corcoran

Save the Corcoran is a non-profit organization comprised of a broad community of donors, artists, students, faculty, alumni and supporters, united to oppose the sale of the National Historic Landmark Building that has housed the Corcoran since 1897.  Proposing a more open and honest dialogue about the institution’s future, the group is rooted in a sincere effort to collaborate with Corcoran leadership on a solution that will address the gallery’s needs while maintaining its historic home and identity. www.SaveTheCorcoran.org

 

 

Crisis at the Corcoran

Save the Corcoran encourages everyone to take a moment to read the investigative feature in this month’s Washingtonian Magazine, entitled, “Crisis at the Corcoran.”  This article was the result of five months of reporting, and provides a gripping and in-depth account of the ongoing controversy taking place over the future of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

Read the full article here.

STC community meeting on Tuesday, November 13th

This meeting is to “roll up our sleeves,” and gather feedback from the community on what the Corcoran needs for its future.

On the agenda:
The Flagg Building/The Gallery
The Collection
The School
Fundraising/Capital Campaign
Corcoran Gallery Foundation
Board of Trustees

Corcoran staff, faculty, students, alumni, members, donors, and Corcoran lovers near and far are invited. Please come. And invite friends who believe in this institution and its future.

Location: Goethe-Institut Washington, DC
812 7th Street NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20001

Date:  November 13, 2012 at 6:30 pm

Statement from Save The Corcoran in Response to Recent Corcoran Announcements

Save the Corcoran, is a community coalition of Corcoran alumni, current and former faculty, members, arts leaders, artists, educators, and business professionals who care deeply about the fate of the institution.  Save the Corcoran issues the following statement today:

Save the Corcoran remains concerned about the leadership’s lack of transparency. We urge the Board of Trustees and administration to embrace the community, including the contingent of Corcoran supporters who have challenged decisions and expressed an interest in collaborating on a path moving forward.

As leadership continues to release conflicting messages and inconsistent claims, Save the Corcoran fears that the Board of Trustees is jeopardizing the institution’s credibility, public trust and long-term financial picture.

Specifically, last week’s Washington Post article has alarmed the community for several reasons:

The timeline in this article indicates that not only did the Corcoran initiate site visits nearly a year before publicly disclosing a plan to explore the sale of the Corcoran’s historic home, but that staff did so without formal Board approval.

Although the Board of Trustees voted to approve assessing the value of the building in June of 2012, according to the article’s timeline, Board Chairman Harry Hopper and other senior Corcoran staff had already begun discussions with the City of Alexandria as early as Summer of 2011.

Considering a move outside of the District violates the Corcoran’s founding charter.  Save the Corcoran is concerned that the time and energy spent on seeking incentives in Alexandria, and other places, over the past 16 months has detracted from developing a focused strategy and fundraising plan for the future.

Furthermore, Save the Corcoran presents several follow-up questions to Corcoran leadership in response to its recent announcement that the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design are in conversation with both the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University.

  1. What is the nature of these discussions?
  2. Are you considering selling the building to the National Gallery? If so, what concern has been given to the collection?
  3. Is the Board exploring a merger with George Washington University? If so, how does this affect student and alumni degrees? And the collection?

The ongoing lack of strategy and a solid plan has created a renewed urgency in the community to know what is unfolding behind closed doors. To this end, Save the Corcoran is working with a team of fundraising experts and an influential Advisory Council, calling for Corcoran leadership to be receptive to and embrace their help.

Save the Corcoran asks Corcoran leadership to take the sale of the building off of the table and work with the community to reconstitute leadership with a progressive, innovative vision that will leverage the resources the institution needs for long-term health and sustainabilty.

 

About Save the Corcoran

Save the Corcoran is a non-profit organization comprised of a broad community of donors, artists, students, faculty, alumni and supporters, united to oppose the sale of the National Historic Landmark Building that has housed the Corcoran since 1897.  Proposing a more open and honest dialogue about the institution’s future, the group is rooted in a sincere effort to collaborate with Corcoran leadership on a solution that will address the gallery’s needs while maintaining its historic home and identity. www.SaveTheCorcoran.org

 

Save The Corcoran Legal Team Delivers Results of Investigation to Corcoran Leadership

Investigation Uncovers Malfeasance, Representatives Demand
New Voices to Fill Board Vacancies

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the legal firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP delivered a letter to Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design officials, citing leadership failures including potential charter violations, corporate waste, potential conflicts of interest and fundraising collapse. The letter, asking that Corcoran leadership fill three current vacancies on the Corcoran Board of Trustees with representatives selected by the Save the Corcoran Coalition Advisory Committee, was delivered to Board Chairman Harry Hopper, President and Director Fred Bollerer, and Chief Operating Officer Lauren Garcia, on behalf of the Save the Corcoran Coalition (enclosed).

The conclusion of the factual and legal investigation, as detailed in the letter, demand two actions:

 

  1. The Corcoran will end all corporate waste associated with an unlawful move outside of Washington, D.C., and publicly announce that the Corcoran will not move outside of the District;
  2. The Corcoran will fill the three current vacancies on its Board of Trustees with nominees selected from the Save the Corcoran Coalition’s Advisory Committee (response requested by October 19).

 

ABOUT SAVE THE CORCORAN

Save the Corcoran is a non-profit organization comprised of a broad community of Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design Trustees, donors, artists, students, faculty, alumni and supporters, united to oppose the sale of its 1897 Ernest Flagg Beaux-Art Building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and located in the heart of downtown DC. Proposing a more open and transparent dialogue about the future of the institution, the purpose of the coalition is to collaborate with Corcoran leadership and the Corcoran community to determine a solution that will address the needs of the Gallery and College, while maintaining its historic home and identity. For more information and/or to get involved, visit www.SaveTheCorcoran.org.

Save the Corcoran / P.O. Box 26204 Washington, DC 20001


PDF Lettertotheboard 10-09-2012

 

Community Newsletter

Dear Save the Corcoran Supporters,

As you may be aware, this has been an incredibly important week for our efforts.

On Tuesday, we were pleased to learn that the D.C. Preservation Society had filed paperwork to amend the Corcoran Gallery of Arts’ historic landmark status to include the building’s interior. As reported by the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Arts Journal, ArtInfo and others, this move would immediately prevent construction in any historic areas of the Corcoran’s interior.

This measure does not necessarily prevent the Corcoran’s Board of Trustees from relocating. It does, however, serve as a critical reminder to the Trustees and the community at large about the cultural and historic significance of the Corcoran’s home. Moreover, the limitations on construction will immediately impact the Board’s ability to sell the building.

We also want to draw your attention to Phillip Kennicott’s editorial that will be in this Sunday’s Washington Post. We have copied the article in its entirety and it is posted below this entry.

Entitled, “As Corcoran Sale Looms, the Silence of its Board of Directors is Disturbing,” this excellent article outlines several of the most important concerns that the Corcoran community has been voicing since the beginning of the summer. We encourage all of you to take a moment to read the article, and to consider sharing it with other concerned individuals.  As Kennicott states at the conclusion of his piece, “Although legally the board has the right to decide the future of the Corcoran, civically it answers to the people of Washington, the larger Corcoran community and the spirit of William Wilson Corcoran.”

To that end, we want to thank you for you ongoing effort to support this issue over the past four months.  By signing the Save the Corcoran petition, participating in community forums, spreading the word, or simply following us on Facebook and Twitter, you are taking a vitally important role in this cause.

The fact is that we still have a long road ahead of us.  But as we have said from the start, the strength of any cultural institution is in the community that supports it.  Having you as an active part of that community has made a huge difference in our efforts so far, and we simply cannot thank you enough.

Best Regards,

The Save the Corcoran Coalition

As Corcoran sale looms, the silence of its board of directors is disturbing

By Philip Kennicott, The Washington Post

Nobody really seems to know what the board of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College is thinking. As the institution heads toward a momentous decision — the possible sale of its historic 1897 home on 17th Street NW — we’ve heard from the Corcoran’s leadership, from its employees, from the people who teach in its respected art school, and from the many artists who consider it a vital part of the local creative ecosystem. But, except for appearances by individual members at community meetings, the board remains mum.

The group psychology of a board of directors may be the most important, if least understood, factor in an organization’s ability to think strategically and make smart decisions. Since the Corcoran announced in June that it may decamp for the suburbs, the leadership has struggled to reassure the community that no decision has been made, that it is merely exploring myriad ways to get out from under the accumulated cost of dealing with deferred maintenance presented by its stately home opposite the White House.

The board’s silence, however, has contributed to a pervasive sense that something else is going on. Ask around, and many people involved with the organization, and cultural leaders with their ears to the ground, say the same thing: that the decision to sell has already been made, that community meetings held after the June announcement were simply a panicked response to public outrage, that the ultimate goal is to relocate the financially more stable college to Alexandria and downgrade the museum function.

The Corcoran insists that isn’t true. All options are still on the table, says a spokeswoman.

But many in the community are convinced a decision is coming fast, and like so many decisions in Washington, once announced it will be a fait accompli.

That makes it all the more essential that the public understand the board’s thinking, its composition and its sense of its own responsibility. The public needs to be able to directly address the board, question it, and decide if these are the right people to be entrusted with what many feel could be suicidal changes.

Mimi Carter, Corcoran vice president of marketing and communications, insists that the board has in fact been open, attending meetings and engaging the public. But she says deliberations about the Corcoran’s future need to be behind closed doors.

“The Corcoran is, of course, a private corporation,” Carter said in a statement. “Negotiations with specific opportunities cannot ensure the best terms for the Corcoran if those discussions are held in public. It would be difficult to site any example where any private entity would decide to conduct these types of discussions in public.”

The Corcoran isn’t a private company in the usual sense, however. It is a nonprofit, and every year that it has benefited from nonprofit tax laws, its mission and future have effectively become more a matter of public concern.

Unfortunately, years of chaotic leadership have led to an exceptional sense of distrust, not only of the executive leadership, but of the board that hires and fires that leadership. Consultants have been hired, reports commissioned, and leaders come and go. But when the buck stops in an organization such as the Corcoran, it ultimately stops at the board.

One museum analyst familiar with the Corcoran’s woes but unwilling to give advice on the record lists unknowns that should be known if the public is to have faith in a board: How many are actively engaged? What kind of development of new members has taken place? What role does the executive leadership have in forming the board over time?

The fear in the community is that the Corcoran board has reached the point of desperation, that its plan is to throw up its hands and give up the fight. Which leads one to wonder, is it time for a clean sweep, fire the board and start over?

Radical remakes of nonprofit boards aren’t easy, but sometimes they are necessary. Five years ago, leaders of the Houston Grand Opera grappled with a board that had grown so large — around 175 members — that it was no longer effective. They opted for a leaner, more active group, which meant, in effect, transitioning dozens of people into new roles as trustees rather than board members. But that required enlightened leadership from within the institution, which the Corcoran seems to lack.

The Corcoran board could avoid a firestorm of hostility by being more open and engaging the public. Any decision that involves sale of the building should include a meaningful public comment period, open deliberation and a public vote. Although legally the board has the right to decide the future of the Corcoran, civically it answers to the people of Washington, the larger Corcoran community and the spirit of William Wilson Corcoran.

Presevervationists file to protect Corcoran

By David Montgomery, The Washington Post

Historic preservationists nominated most of the graceful interior of the Corcoran Gallery of Art as a local architectural landmark Monday, a move that opens a new front in the battle over the economically struggling museum’s future.

While the Corcoran’s 1897 beaux-arts home near the White House was designated a national historic landmark in 1992, that distinction does not protect it from radical alterations by a private developer. The 68-page nomination filed by the D.C. Preservation League under the District’s preservation ordinance would require public review of significant construction work.

The city’s nine-member Historic Preservation Review Board will decide if the Corcoran’s vast atrium, grand staircase, rotunda, galleries and other critical spaces merit landmark protection, following a public hearing in the coming months. For now, the simple act of submitting the nomination blocks any construction in the historic areas, according to city preservation officials.

“Interior public spaces of this grandeur are very rare in Washington,” said Rebecca Miller, executive director of the preservation league, a membership organization founded in 1971 to save the Willard Hotel and other cherished downtown structures. Miller compared the Corcoran to Union Station, whose interior the league also recently nominated. “It’s fairly unique to have an interior that is as intact as the Corcoran is.”

The landmark proposal comes as the Corcoran’s leadership considers selling the building and moving to another location, possibly outside the city. Placing limitations on an owner’s ability to reconfigure the interior could complicate efforts to sell. Developers have previously told The Washington Post that the building would be worth more if it weren’t a historic landmark.

Now Corcoran officials find themselves in the unusual position of having to decide whether to oppose the nomination — and argue that the interior is not worthy of being landmarked — or support it and perhaps affect the market value of the building.

Mimi Carter, the Corcoran’s senior director of communications and marketing, said gallery officials had no comment.

Activists opposed to the Corcoran’s possible move hailed the preservationists’ proposal as a boost to their cause.

“My real hope is that it will give them significant pause in going ahead and selling the building,” said Roberta Faul-Zeitler, a former director of communications for the gallery who has been active with the group Save the Corcoran. “There’s no guarantee, even with landmark status, that it won’t be sold. But it probably will be a deterrent to anyone who has a notion that they can come in there and turn it into a private club or a perhaps even an embassy.”

The Corcoran’s executives have said that the gallery and the affiliated Corcoran College of Art and Design must consider relocating because it would cost an estimated $130 million to renovate the building to modern museum standards. Millions more would have to be spent to expand the college, they said. The Corcoran does not have that kind of money. Recent fundraising has lagged, and the institution posted a deficit of $7 million for the fiscal year ended in June.

No decision on whether to stay or go has been made, Carter said. And she said she had no details on potential buyers or potential new locations.

The Corcoran’s board of trustees voted last month to hire the real estate services firm CBRE to field offers and scout locations. Emanuel Fitzgerald, executive vice president with CBRE, did not return a telephone call Monday seeking comment.

Landmarked interiors are relatively rare in Washington. There are about 700 landmarked exteriors, but only 19 interiors, including Eastern Market, the Warner Theatre and the Chevy Chase Arcade, said David Maloney, the city’s historic preservation officer. The Corcoran’s exterior received local landmark status in 1964.

One reason for the disparity is that preservationists generally consider exteriors most vital to the public experience of a historic property, Maloney said. But buildings with quasi-public missions and intact interiors are good candidates for landmarking, Miller said.

The paperwork filed by the preservation league builds the case for landmarking the Corcoran’s interior on two arguments: The gallery has been tied to “events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history,” including the rise of American art movements, the evolution of museums in the capital and gatherings of historically important figures; and the interior is architecturally distinctive, notably in how the spaces were skillfully designed to their purpose.

Faul-Zeitler, before she worked at the Corcoran, chained herself to a railing of the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue NW in the early 1970s to protect the building from demolition. She said that she notified the preservation league in June of the Corcoran’s potential move and suggested landmarking.

Miller said the league was already focusing on the Corcoran, especially following the canceled 2005 museum expansion designed by Frank Gehry. That project would have destroyed some of the historic spaces the league now seeks to protect.

The league takes no position on the Corcoran’s possible relocation, Miller said. “We are looking to safeguard this historic resource,” she said. “Whether or not the institution leaves the building is up to them. We are not an organization that dictates use, unless the use will destroy the landmark.”