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

Allow the Corcoran to make its own decisions

By Washington Post Editorial Board, Published: August 7

AS THE OLDEST private art museum in the District, the Corcoran Gallery of Art caused quite a stir earlier this summer when it announced the possibility of a move from its historic Beaux-Arts palazzo across from the White House. The perennially under-funded museum posted a $7.2 million deficit for the fiscal year that ended in June 2011 and told The Post two months ago that the cost of maintaining its flagship could reach more than $130 million. Hence the controversial decision to consider a move to “a purpose-built, technologically advanced, flexible, multipurpose facility” in the suburbs.

The possibility of such a move, however, may prove more complicated than the museum’s board of trustees anticipated.

The Corcoran is a nonprofit organization and, as such, would be subject to the District’s nonprofit corporation law. According to that law, the attorney general is authorized to bring action in D.C. Superior Court against any organization that “has continued to act contrary to its nonprofit purposes.” In the Corcoran’s case, there’s an argument to be made that those “nonprofit purposes” have a lot to do with its particular location in the District itself. Although it’s true that William Wilson Corcoran imagined a museum “dedicated to art” that would be “used solely for the purpose of encouraging American genius,” the preamble to the Corcoran’s 1869 deed nevertheless explicitly mentions “an institution in Washington City.” Along the same lines, the act of Congress that incorporated the Corcoran the following year also mentions the museum’s location in “Washington county, District of Columbia.”

Last week, the Attorney General’s Office said that it’s now “looking into the issues involved in Corcoran’s possible move.” Of course, the Corcoran hasn’t yet officially announced if or when it will leave the District, but it’s now apparent that there could be a struggle should its trustees ultimately make that decision.

Another struggle is exactly what the Corcoran doesn’t need. The museum is still recovering from its decision to cancel a controversial Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition in 1989 and its failure to raise sufficient funds for a Frank Gehry expansion in 2005. Regardless of the authority the attorney general may have, the Corcoran’s trustees should be allowed to do what’s best for the future of the museum without any additional distractions — even if it means leaving the District.

Naturally, abandoning Ernest Flagg’s marble masterpiece at the corner of 17th Street and New York Avenue NW should be a last resort, and — if they have to sell — the Corcoran’s trustees should do everything in their power to ensure that the building remains “dedicated to art.” But whatever decision they make in the end, it should be theirs and theirs alone.

STC wrote to the Washington Post Editorial Board in response to this article.  We are still awaiting a reply–

Letter to the Editor:

Upon seeing the Editorial, “Allow the Corcoran to Make Its Own Decisions”, I immediately wondered if anyone on the Post’s editorial board had read the excellent coverage their staff has already given to the gallery’s crisis of leadership.

The article states, “Regardless of the authority the attorney general may have, the Corcoran’s trustees should be allowed to do what’s best for the future of the museum…”, yet the current crisis clearly illustrates that the Corcoran’s trustees are unable to “do what’s best for the future of the museum.”

Selling off the desperately-needed commercial space adjacent to the gallery was not what was best for the future of the Corcoran. It only made the Corcoran’s shortage of space more severe.

Neglecting fundraising has not been what’s best for the future of the museum. It only crippled the museum’s finances.

Repeatedly alienating the arts community has not been what’s best for the future of the museum.  It only reduced the number of advocates the museum could have during this crisis.

The Post has long argued for more accountability and transparency from corporate boards.  A Corcoran leadership team that is imperiling the survival of a cultural icon should not get a free pass.


Bill Dunlap: An Open Letter to the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Past and Present

I write to respectfully urge you, the Trustees, to do all in your powers to preserve the Corcoran Gallery of Art – in place, in its landmark beaux arts building at 17th Street and New York Avenue, NW.

The mere suggestion of a possible sale and subsequent relocation has created an enormous groundswell of art world and community concern, objection, and in some quarters, outrage.

This outpouring is genuine and as passionate as it was unexpected. The consensus is that the loss of so formidable and consequential a Temple of Art as is the Corcoran’s late 19th century Ernest Flagg designed building is simply too catastrophic to contemplate.

Crisis creates opportunity and the search for a new director, or CEO as the position is called, is laudable. An entrepreneurial, visionary and tireless museum professional who can turn this situation around will be well rewarded and remembered. By the same token, history will not look kindly on those of us who would let the Corcoran slip away for lack of something that the Art World is currently awash in – money.

I would further urge the Trustees not to be blinded by the scarlet ink of a bottom line. The Corcoran’s future can be as bright as its luminous past. Surely this audible outcry from an impassioned public can be converted into positive benefit for the preservation, improvement, advancement and financial stability of the Corcoran – in place.

To my mind, the solution to the Corcoran’s dilemma and its cause are one and the same – institutional memory, and the lack thereof. With the sesquicentennial celebration of the Corcoran’s founding less than a decade away, it would appear some soul searching of a serious nature is in order.

Outreach of every stripe – traveling the priceless collection, satellite galleries, off-site studios and classrooms, suburban branches… would be welcome. But the Corcoran’s greatest asset, its most important work of art, its very core, is without question the building itself.

It is said that life is short, yet Art is long. Trustees, directors, curators, registrars, even artists, come and go but Art, we like to think, is forever. After all these years, the Corcoran Gallery of Art now belongs to our generation – but it is only ours in trust. To abandon and dispose of this building would be to breach a trust that is as sacred as anything in the secular world.

I respectfully urge you, not to let that happen.

William Dunlap
McLean, VA
August 9, 2012

Upcoming meetings held by The Corcoran:

Show up and have your voice heard!

Community Meeting at The Corcoran
Thursday, August 2 at 7:00 p.m.

This community meeting is to discuss the Corcoran’s future and issues surrounding the Gallery specifically.  This session is focused around listening to the broader Corcoran community and will include a panel of community members, including artist/educator/commentator Bill Dunlap and writer/performer Holly Bass. Chief Curator Philip Brookman will be on hand to answer questions, and Director of Development Communications Mark Swartz will moderate a discussion around three topics: integration of the Gallery and College, the Corcoran’s identity, and a sustainable model for the future.

Community Meeting at The Corcoran
Thursday, August 23 at 7:00 p.m.

As the Corcoran makes decisions about its future, which include finding a new director, the Board and leadership are interested in hearing the views of our community. Although the issue of College-Gallery integration is certain to arise, the College is the focus of this meeting.



We wanted to alert you to some important developments in our efforts to stop the misguided sale of the Corcoran Gallery of Art, a National Historic Landmark and one of America’s oldest museums. This coming week will be pivotal to our campaign.

First, we’re excited that Save the Corcoran’s Jayme McLellan will be on NPR’s Kojo Nnamdi Show on Monday at 1230pm ET to talk more about the current situation. Please listen live. Call in to the show, post comments at the website or tweet with the hashtag #savethecorcoran to show your support.

Also, today Washington Post art critic Philip Kennicott published a piece that put things in stark relief: “…at a critical moment, when the Corcoran desperately needs people to rally behind it, the board of directors has indicated that it is seriously considering a move that would further alienate supporters of the museum.”

On that last point, he is right, and we cannot afford to underestimate how far things have progressed behind closed doors. Comparing the non-transparent maneuvering by the current leadership to the “dictatorial and disenfranchising” executive decisions that rocked Susan G. Komen for the Cure earlier this year, Kennicott warns that “the college and the collection is now in danger of being whittled down to just the college, leaving the collection without a landmark home.”

Our best hope right now is to stop this sale at the board level. Please SIGN OUR PETITION calling on the board to vote NO. We ask those of you who have contacts in the art world to get this story out and rally support for our cause. Please forward this posting to people who care about art and ask them to speak up with us.

We deeply appreciate everything you are doing to help Save The Corcoran.

RFPs to Sell the Corcoran Building and Buy a New Building are Due July 6th

This is an extremely fast tracked process:


Ustream Link to June 20, 2012 Meeting

We had an excellently productive meeting today at The Warehouse Theater.  As we’re still in the preliminary stages of planning our coalition’s mission and agenda, we are compiling all of your creative ideas and viable strategies to help the Corcoran move forward.

If you weren’t able to attend the meeting, please check out the videos on UStream.

Submit your ideas and suggestions to us as  We need your voices!

Next Community Meeting!

Thursday, June 20th, 6pm
Warehouse Theater
(entrance at 945 New York Ave – next to the Beach Bar)
Meeting will be Ustreamed

All are invited to participate!
Facebook invite.

Broadcast Stream for Tonight!

Can’t be at Civilian? at 6 tonight to view the discussion, ask questions and chat.