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

The Deal is not yet done. We can still save the Corcoran.

“The Corcoran is gone,” someone shouted loudly and with frustration to me this weekend at an otherwise relaxing dinner party.

The comment didn’t make me mad; it didn’t make me want to cry into my napkin. What he barked was mostly true: The Corcoran, as we know it, is mostly gone. However, “mostly gone” is not all the way dead. Not yet.

As you may know — and I’m not going to rehash the details here — under the current plan created by a questionable Board, the Corcoran will soon be gone. It’s like watching the last buffalo roam the plains: The Corcoran on the verge of extinction; the oldest art museum in D.C.; a time capsule not only of American art, but of American history, about to transform into history itself.  A 145-year legacy dissolved into name only, its great parts cut up and given away.

But isn’t a legacy something worth continuing? Meaning: We don’t have to dismember the past to move into the future. And if it is possible to save the Corcoran, shouldn’t we do everything we can — now — to try? We will never get this chance again.

The Corcoran does not have to be swallowed by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. If it is swallowed, it will be digested. If it is joined by them in partnership, with others, these venerable institutions can help the Corcoran to re-invent and stabilize itself, so that it can continue to inspire in its own unique way.

It is not too late. We can intervene before the dissolution.

Sometimes things reveal their own truth in layers. And the big truth here is that we really, really need the Corcoran. At this time in our nation’s history, there has never been a more important time to have a place designed for society to unite through art in a creative space.  Museums and colleges succeed every day. It can happen.

But there’s no money, he said at dinner.

There is money. There’s an unprecedented amount of capital in Washington, and we have a solid way to tap the big resources while creating a plan to embrace grassroots support and a rapidly growing D.C. middle-class.

And, remember when Wayne Reynolds reached out to try to help the Corcoran?  He meant it. Don’t forget that Mr. Reynolds is the guy who stepped in at Ford’s Theater when it was struggling financially and its old building needed repairs. In short order, he rebuilt the board, grew a $50 million endowment, and funded the renovation that has revitalized a place of historical significance.

He can do this for the Corcoran, as well. But we must come together, trust each other, and build something a little different and a lot better than what we were left with at the end. We can transform the sad, dying culture of the Corcoran back into one of inspiration and innovation. Many of the parts of the institution were, until a few months ago, still working. The Corcoran isn’t yet gone. Let’s not talk about her like she’s already dead.


Technically, the Board has just filed with the D.C. Superior Court a petition for cy pres to break the deed that established the Corcoran in 1869. Citing that they could not make it work under the original deed and charter, they will break its original founding doctrine.

The hearing for cy pres will happen on July 18, 2014. The Corcoran, as we know it, is not undone until the deed has been broken. And if it is broken, this is what we will lose:

-  We lose Washington’s first art museum.

-  We lose the third oldest museum in the nation.

-  We lose an independent voice for the creative — a big one.

-  We lose a place where young minds learn to make art; this means learning how to solve problems creatively.

-  We lose an independent, creative voice not tied to the money of the state or the nation, but interdependent with its people.

-  We lose a gathering place for the community (local, national and international) to come together for any reason we can collectively imagine through art.

-  We lose a collection of 18,000 works of art which, kept together, could tell/present the story of the arts in Washington, D.C.

-  We lose the Corcoran Archive, a resource which helps us remember and understand the past of the arts in Washington.

If we lose the Corcoran, in all but name only, we lose a great opportunity to create a space of pure inspiration. A place where the greatest inventions of the greatest minds could be shared, discussed, and integrated into our culture. This place could not only encourage the American Genius, as Mr. Corcoran set as the mission for his museum, it could inspire the American genius to action. We haven’t done this work yet – this is Corcoran phase two. There is no place in the world like what the Corcoran can be; and believe me, the path it’s on is not going to take it there.

Can we, at this moment in our shared history, afford to lose a place with this much potential?

The current deal put together by the Corcoran’s current Board of Trustees would mean:

-  George Washington University gets the historic building, a time capsule of architecture and the crown-jewel of the Corcoran itself.

-  George Washington University gets $16 million annually in tuition from the college.

-  George Washington University gets up to $55 million in the Corcoran’s bank account recently accumulated through sold art, a bequest, and parking lot money – money that belongs to the Corcoran legacy, its students, its alumni, and its faculty and staff.

-  The National Gallery of Art gets whatever art it wants, out of a picked apart historic collection, and some gallery space in the Corcoran where it will host contemporary exhibitions, NGA-style — i.e., conservative, and tied to public money. It will not be taking great risks. It will not be an innovator.

Wait a minute.

The same leaders who let fundraising slip from $16 million (in 2002) to $3 million today get to continue to call the shots?

The same leaders who, while spending almost two million dollars on consultants to tell them what to do, considered selling the flagship building and moving to Alexandria?

The same leaders who flubbed the deal with the University of Maryland after keeping staff and faculty waiting for resolution?

The same leadership who did not listen to its staff, alumni, students, members or community?

The same leaders who hired Fred Bollerer and Lauren Garcia — two people with zero experience in running a museum or an institute of higher education, one of whom gave everyone his or her pink slip and told them not to be negative on social media – to run the place? These leaders?

The question is: Are we going to let them?

No amount of planning, or protesting, or legal hoop-jumping is going to change the belief of many who think the Corcoran is already gone. But, fortunately, a core group of students, alumni, faculty, staff, donors, and members of the Corcoran think the Corcoran can be resuscitated. We think the Corcoran can become a place that incorporates the best from its past, while building on its greatest asset – the people who love and believe in it – to carry it into its future.

Imagine the Corcoran as the most amazing institution it can be where anything is possible. Hold that idea in your mind and email me about how you can help save it. It’s not too late.


Jayme McLellan, June 2014


June 19, 2014

Washington City Paper, Arts Desk
“The Corcoran Still Needs Permission to Dissolve Itself.  Here’s Its Court Filing, Annotated.”
by Kriston Capps

Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design filed a cy-près petition to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia seeking formal approval to revise the Corcoran’s federal charter. National Law Journal reporter Zoe Tillman spotted the filing yesterday. The petition would enable the Corcoran to go through with its plans to dissolve itself and be subsumed by the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. (Catch up on the Corc issue with this backgrounder: “22 Questions for the Corcoran.”)

For the first time (and not for want of requests for comment), the Corcoran has outlined in its own words its reasoning for pursuing such a drastic solution to its problems. The entire document deserves a thorough fisking. Factually and semantically, there’s much to debate about the trustees’ reading of the situation. Officials at the University of Maryland, with whom the Corcoran pursued a deal over the course of several months before it was abruptly abandoned, come in for special treatment, for example.

Meanwhile, the trustees acknowledge that they have spent through the institution’s endowment, and indeed must “make determinations to invade the acquisition fund to maintain operations for the coming academic year.”

Two sections, in which the trustees demonstrate in two specific ways a willful misreading of their circumstances, merit special attention.

The Corcoran’s Standing Among Directors

The Corcoran’s court filing comes on the heels of scary headlines at another beleaguered museum. The Delaware Art Museum just lost its accreditation with the Association of Art Museum Directors over its decision to sell an 1868 painting by William Holman Hunt in order to pay down museum debt and replenish its endowment. In its judgment, the AAMD explains that other options were available to the Delaware Art Museum, including association help with fundraising. The judgment calls for indeterminate “sanctions,” asking members not to loan works to or collaborate on exhibits with the Delaware museum. “AAMD does not agree that the Delaware Art Museum had only two options to address its current financial challenges—sell works from the collection or close the museum,” the release reads.

Corcoran trustees dreaded running afoul of the Association of Art Museum Directors, as a lengthy passage in the cy-près petition reveals. In May, the AAMD applauded the Corcoran’s resolve to dissolve. While the Corcoran satisfied the high priests, the trustees sacrificed the body to do so.

Make no mistake: The Corcoran closed rather than take emergency measures. It is a slow-burn, graduated closure, but the Corcoran is closing. Worse, it is closing even as it committed the sin that the AAMD considers unpardonable: The museum sold the Clark Sickle-Leaf Carpet for $33.8 million in an auction of Middle Eastern and Asian rugs from the William A. Clark collection that netted the museum about $40 million. That money was never meant for future acquisitions, as the AAMD requires: By the June 2013 auction, the Corcoran had been looking to sell out for a full year. Now, whatever the Corcoran hasn’t spent from that auction purse goes to George Washington University.

From the petition:

Adherence to these [AAMD] guidelines is an essential element to maintain the Corcoran’s accreditation as a museum, which in turn assures the Corcoran’s ability to receive loans of art from other museums,

Which it can’t do closed.

attract qualified staff,

Which it can’t do closed.

participate in special and traveling exhibitions,

Which it can’t do closed.

and to maintain relationships with other museums.

Now its relationship with other museums is defined by who gets what from the Corcoran’s halls. Continuing on:

A determination by the Corcoran not to adhere to the guidelines would likely result in a loss of accreditation,

Which no longer matters (the museum violated those edicts anyway).

and would dramatically undermine the Corcoran’s reputation within the museum field,

and would likely substantially undermine its ability to recruit and retain qualified curatorial and other key museum staff,

Curators who are now clinging to one-year contracts with the National Gallery, staff who are looking at three months’ severance, adjunct instructors who have very little hope, but go on.

undercut its ability to raise funds,

More on this in a moment.

and substantially hinder if not eliminate its ability to participate in significant traveling exhibitions.

To be sure, the AAMD draws a bright line around museums treating their collections like piggy banks for good reason. Museums would destroy themselves, their histories, their legacies, and their communities if they all behaved like the Delaware Art Museum. Clearly, though, a slavish adherence to a safeguard principle isn’t always the right answer. No one thinks the Corcoran did something wrong by selling those rugs—the museum just sold them for the wrong reason.

The Corcoran’s Standing in Washington

In the petition, the trustees only partially address the institution’s dismal fundraising. The myopia they reveal is staggering. Reading on:

While the fundraising financial campaigns have produced support that has varied in amount from year to-year [sic] and purpose-to-purpose, the overall financial situation of the Corcoran has for several decades deteriorated. This deterioration is due to several factors.

What’s amazing is this passage doesn’t start with an institutional mea culpa—an apology for how the revolving door of directors, the constant bleed of knowledgeable administrators, and the alienation of key donors over the last decade ruined the Corcoran. Instead, the blame starts with D.C.:

First, the District of Columbia has lacked a substantial base of local, very wealthy donors dedicated to supporting local arts institutions, especially in comparison to other urban centers such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia.

Arguably true in so many respects, but then, look to the Phillips Collection. Over a four-year period in which the Corcoran drew about $800,000 in contributions defined as “excess” for tax purposes—large gifts, in other words—the Phillips pulled in $23 million. Without even mounting a capital campaign.

One museum that does not merit a mention in this petition: The Phillips Collection. Instead, the Corcoran punches up:

The [National Gallery of Art] as a national institution receives federal funding support (while also seeking donations), and is open free of charge all year.

To be absolutely sure, the Corcoran is no National Gallery. It’s not a suitable comparison by any measure, except maybe longevity (the Corcoran is older).

Its location on the National Mall, its prestige as a national institution, and its greater funding resources, have undercut the Corcoran’s separate role as a museum within the District.

So how does the Phillips thrive on a residential street off Dupont Circle?

This effect has been compounded by the multiplication of Smithsonian and National Gallery–related specialist museums (e.g., the National Museum of American Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Freer Gallery, and The Hirshhorn among others),

Brief sidebar: The Smithsonian American Art Museum, as it is known today, was called the “National Museum of American Art” between 1980 and 2000. That museum has gone by a lot of names. In fact, back when it was called the “National Institute,” and after its home at the Smithsonian Castle suffered a fire in 1865, Smithsonian stakeholders wound up lending artworks to the Corcoran for a time that stretched to several decades. Which just goes to show that the Corcoran has been around for a very, very long time. Its history dwarfs that of upstarts like the Hirshhorn. Its successes made other art museums possible.

History notwithstanding, research from the University of Chicago has indicated that even when museums expand within a single region, the spillover effects are not clear one way or another (positive or negative). It is not a given that the National Gallery thrives at the expense of the Corcoran.

Reading on:

all of which are open free-of-charge and are located on or close to the National Mall and in the area between the White House and the Capitol, thus establishing a major tourism nexus that is directed away from the Corcoran’s location west of the White House.

There are a lot of points worth considering when thinking about the future of the Corcoran: The costs it would take to bring the museum up to Americans with Disabilities Act compliance, the variable estimates for renovating the 19th-century Beaux-Arts building, the judgment the Corcoran showed in selling or mortgaging all its other properties. But this singular point—that a location within a stroller’s distance of the White House is a dead end—has always rankled the most.

For all intents and purposes, here’s the kicker to the saga:

Last, the Corcoran’s longstanding close relationship between the College and the Gallery has imposed the expenses of both, while hindering the development of a unique identity for either.

Yes, that’s right: In the end, the trustees of the Corcoran blame the museum and the college.

Read the Corcoran’s petition at the bottom of the original article here.


Advisory Committee Letter

Dear Save the Corcoran Advisory Committee Members,

It is hard to believe, but it has been a year.

One year ago, we as a community first stood together, united in our concern, confusion and outrage over the proposed sale of the historic Ernest Flagg building that houses our beloved Corcoran.

In that year, we have witnessed the power of a motivated and mobilized community.  We have seen the power of each and every one of you – and so many more – sharing your voice in the news, on social media, and face-to-face…and our voice was most certainly heard!  Save the Corcoran is incredibly proud of our accomplishments this past year, and that certainly includes all of your tireless contributions.  Thanks to your efforts, we know that the Corcoran will remain in its historic home.

Our mission, however, continues today.  In spite of our accomplishments, the Corcoran still faces an uncertain future. We want you to know that Save the Corcoran remains fully committed to demanding total transparency and proper stewardship over the institution’s future. And this includes ensuring that Corcoran leaders recognize that the community deserves a real voice moving forward. We pledge that we will continue our efforts to work with Corcoran leaders, with the D.C. government, with our legal team, with the media, and with each of you to keep this mission alive.  We simply believe that a whole and healthy Corcoran is most certainly worth that effort.

As we step into the next phase of our shared goal to Save the Corcoran, we look forward to working together with you.

Best regards,

The Save the Corcoran Coalition

Letter to the Corcoran Community, by Harry Hopper

Dear Corcoran Community,

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I take great pleasure in sharing with you the news of an integral group of decisions approved at the board meeting today. Together, these decisions move us forward dramatically toward a sustainable future for both the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Corcoran College of Art + Design.

1) We have approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Maryland. This document opens the way to develop a permanent partnership sought by both institutions.

2) We have completed an agreement of unprecedented scope with the National Gallery of Art, under which the Corcoran will exhibit works of modern and contemporary art from the National Gallery’s collection during the three-year period when the East Building is under renovation.

3) We have appointed museologist Peggy Loar as Consulting Director of the Corcoran. Ms. Loar brings exceptional skills and experience to this position, having served as director of the Smithsonian Institution’s Traveling Exhibition Series, the first program director of the Institute of Museum Services, the founding director of the Wolfsonian Museum and Research Center and, most recently, the director of the National Museum of Qatar.

Fred Bollerer, who has so ably steered this institution through a period of financial risk, and who graciously extended his contract with the Corcoran at the board’s request, twice deferring his planned retirement, has kindly agreed to assist the transition as Peggy Loar moves into her new role.

4) We have adopted a Strategic Framework for a New Corcoran. It calls for the Corcoran to:

- focus on Contemporary Art, American Art, and Design

- build on a recognized commitment to community engagement; and

- develop an ability to address the cultural, social, economic and political issues of our day.

Initiatives specified in the Strategic Framework include reviving the Corcoran Biennial; extending the impact of the College by partnering with a leading local university; and working more broadly and deeply with partners in the Washington area to bring contemporary art into political and social discussion and debate.

All of these developments come in the context of an upswing in fundraising. Having successfully reorganized our development office in autumn 2012, we have experienced renewed engagement from donors and patrons including members, young professionals of the 1869 Society, corporations, and Trustees.

For the last two years, the Corcoran Board has grappled with some very difficult tasks. We are incredibly thankful for the commitment of our alumni, and look forward to sharing an extraordinary future with you.

You can read more about the Corcoran’s future by clicking here.



Harry Hopper

Chairman, Board of Trustees


On Wednesday, April 3rd, students protested and submitted this letter to the Board of Trustees

Declaration for Campaign of Action

To the Corcoran Board of Trustees,

We, The Students for Saving the Corcoran, begin our campaign of action today at the Corcoran College of Art + Design as we have been incredibly troubled by the constant problems the Corcoran has endured due to an irresponsible administration.  This action is in response to the lack of transparency and accountability that has plagued our college and museum for the past decade and now threatens the institution’s future stability and founding mission to encourage American Genius.

We have initiated this campaign because we believe you are leading the college down the wrong road.  Continuous poor decision-making by the Board of Trustees and leadership has contributed to a dire financial deficit for which no one has been held accountable.  The manner in which the Corcoran is being governed is deplorable and consequences must be faced for this blatant mismanagement.  Your actions have disrupted our creativity and environment for learning, as well as jeopardizing the futures and careers of hundreds of students.  You have left us with little choice than to bring your actions into public light.

We will continue our campaign until the following demands have been met:

1. The board of trustees must immediately implement structural changes with the goal of creating transparent and democratic decision-making process.

The administration’s gross mismanagement and cronyism warrants a new and different process than what has led the college into this crisis.  To end this pattern, we have outlined initiatives that the board must take:

- Record and document board meetings and make minutes publicly available;

- Appoint a student, a faculty member, a staff member and alumni as voting members of the Board of Trustees;

- Implement a board member removal process where board members may be removed by a majority vote from the Corcoran student body and Faculty Association.

2. Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Harry F. Hopper III and Director Fred Bollerer must resign immediately. 

- Under your tenure, the Corcoran has been set on a path to financial ruin.  Your lack of vision, accountability, credentials and integrity has shown you are no longer suitable for the positions you hold.    

3. Appoint Wayne Reynolds as Chairman of the Board of Trustees. 

- The appointment of Mr. Reynolds will allow the Corcoran to thrive once again without the aid of a partner.  It is our goal that the Corcoran remain independent until the institution is financially stable.  Mr. Reynolds’ vision will realign the institution with the original intentions of its founder, William Wilson Corcoran, as a place for creativity, world-class contemporary art and the encouragement of American genius.

Corcoran Community Meeting, March 29th

Dear Corcoran community and friends:

You surely are aware of the recent articles in the Washington Post about the Corcoran’s future and Wayne Reynolds’ hopes for it:

Washington Post article
Washington Post Editorial

Please join us for a Corcoran community meeting with Mr. Reynolds and learn about his vision for what the Corcoran could become and why he cares. We’ll have plenty of time for questions and answers and students will be speaking as well.

Find out about
- How he sees the Corcoran’s potential for the future and how he can help to make it happen.
- How he plans to utilize the Corcoran’s strengths.
- How he plans to engage the creative thinkers within the institution as well as all who care deeply about it.

Learn more about how he wants to work with you, and other members of the Corcoran community, and how you can help.

Come prepared with your questions. Every voice matters.

“Top of the Hay” at the Hay Adams Hotel (800 16th Street NW)

5:00 p.m.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Food and drink provided. Open bar.

If you care about the Corcoran, attend the Corcoran or work at the Corcoran, you should be at this meeting.

All are welcome but it would be helpful if you could RSVP so we know how much food to order to:

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:

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.

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


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.



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.