*Read more community feedback at Save the Corcoran Petition
J. Winter Nightwolf, “The Nightwolf Show,” WPFW-FM, 89.3, Washington, D.C., Opening Statement, Friday, Oct. 5, 2012
Back in July I reported on a very SERIOUS situation facing one of DC’s – AND THIS COUNTRY’s – national historic landmark buildings, THE CORCORAN GALLERY OF ART at 17th Street and New York Avenue, NW. It continues to be in grave danger of being sold by its board of trustees to the highest bidder. This would be a tragedy that the people of this city AND NATION would forever regret. But there is a silver lining. This week, I received some news that the D.C. PRESERVATION LEAGUE has nominated the Corcoran for “INTERIOR LANDMARK DESIGNATION.” The DCPL is Washington’s ONLY citywide nonprofit dedicated to the preservation and protection of the historic resources of our nation’s capital. These folks are heroes in my mind. They are protecting OUR HISTORY. Well, I was so pleased to hear this news because you know what this means? This nomination is a PROTECTION. It serves as PROTECTION against any major interior alterations to the building until a public hearing is held on the application by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board. Now, all of this will probably deter potential buyers who might have wanted to take it over and ruin the interior. I took a class by the great photographer Ansel Adams at the Corcoran many years ago. This place is part of MY HISTORY. You can read the entire nomination at www.dcpreservation.org and support this effort. To the Corcoran’s board of trustees and director who would sell this building to the highest bidder, I have this to say: “The voices of the DC human family have been heard and will continue to be heard.”
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.
August 9, 2012
Mary Welch Higgins
The Corcoran Gallery and College of Art and Design has been a member of the Washington DC art community for as long as I can remember. read full quote
I love the Corcoran building, outside and inside. It is one of the best museum buildings in the world. I also love the Corcoran museum and school as institutions, and their linked histories. I love the light and space and proportion of those great upper galleries. I love the memories of so much wonderful art displayed in that changing light. I love the key role the Corcoran used to play in making Washington a great art city. I long for the day that true leadership returns to this noble cultural institution.
You don’t sell your museum ever. There is time to work together to prevent a suicidal sale, and return the Corcoran to fulfilling its vital role in our City. Lower the shields, take the FOR SALE sign down and replace the realtors inside with the community of stakeholders who care about the past and future of this essential DC institution.
I am an art historian and a museum professional, and I think it is horrifying that this is even being considered! We need to protect our cultural institutions – they are what connect us to our humanity.
I grew up in DC and return regularly – the Corcoran is one of the holdouts of what this amazing city has been and is on its way to becoming again.
So many organizations and businesses have let go of amazing buildings in amazing places only to later desperately regret it. The Corcoran’s current holdings are some of the most incredible investments that can not truly be valued – anything that may be gained on the short term is nothing compared to what will be lost, and the opportunities for continual payback (including monetary that would continue long into the future).
J. Winter Nightwolf
“The Nightwolf Show, the American Indians’ Truths: The Most Dangerous Show on Radio,” WPFW-FM (Pacifica), 89.3, Washington, D.C., Friday, 7-8 p.m., July 6, 2012
There’s another dire situation facing our city these days. The word is OUT: the historic Corcoran Gallery of Art building on 17th Street and New York Avenue, NW, just two blocks from the White House, is in grave danger of being sold to the highest bidder. Human family, if you care about great art and great art museums in our city, you will not let this happen. The situation is the result of INEPT management and TERRIBLE decisions by the Board over the years. Now, you don’t know this about me, but many years ago I took a class at the Corcoran taught by the great photographer ANSEL ADAMS. The Corcoran was the very first place my executive producer worked in DC. Like us, I suspect many of you have ties to the Corcoran and as Washingtonians, we cannot allow this to happen to this building, which is a NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK, one of just 2,500 in the country, and one of this city’s great treasures. The good news is that a grassroots community group of artists, former staff, students and other concerned folks is speaking up. You can, too, and I urge you to join me. Go to WWW.SAVETHECORCORAN.ORG. The group also has a Facebook page called “Save the Corcoran.” Finally, a petition can be signed online at WWW.CHANGE.ORG. To the Corcoran’s board of trustees and director I have this to say: “The voices of the DC community will be heard.”
It seems the sale would be a fire sale …who would buy the museum…what else could it be used for? I don’t think it would generate enough money to solve the financial problems of the Corcoran. It would be a nail in the coffin to an ultimate death of the gallery/college. There must be a joint venture relationship that could be a win -win for the college & the museum and the joint venturer.
The Corcoran is an institution with historic stature and local as well as National resonance. If it were well managed it could once again be a center for the best of Washington contemporary art. Selling the building and moving the museum would be a certain death blow to the institution and a terrible loss.
The Flagg Building is the largest piece of art the Corcoran owns. If you sell it, that’s the first step in selling the collection.
It just seems like a mistake to hand over a building and institution that embodies so much history and creativity. Instead of selling the premises, perhaps the Board of Trustees could make their goal to get more recognition and interest in the Corcoran.
Ben Forgey said everything i would say. I too ” long for the day leadership returns to this noble cultural institution.” … the Corcoran was once the heart of the whole living community of artists in the D.C area.
I am a professor of Art at the Corcoran College of Art + Design for 27 years. The Corcoran has always played a critical role in the artistic life of this city.
Selling the building won’t solve the organizational problems that lead to this situation. Solve your problems with long-term strategic thinking. Selling the building dooms the Corcoran collection.
BFA graduate, class of 1991. I was saddened to see the news that the Corcoran was considering selling and moving. My education and experience at the school is one of my fondest memories. To be a student in the city of Washington DC was an extraordinary experience, one that cannot be replicated in suburban locales.
The building is not inconveniently placed. As permenant residents of the DC area, my family and I have always taken guests here when they visit DC.
I graduated from the Corcoran in 2002. To see this building sold and having the museum and school move out of Washington, DC is a huge sign of disastrous leadership. As an alumni I am completely saddened and horrified.
The Corcoran clearly needs to rethink its future direction and develop practical, stable plans for future funding – but selling its building is not the first step in doing this. It’s a sign of flailing leadership, and will almost definitely the first step to the Gallery’s dissolution.
The Corcoran as an institution and the building it resides in are synonymous. If you take away the building, you take away part of its recognition to the public and part of its historical heritage. Please keep the Corcoran Gallery and College at its current location. Go Coppertop!
As a 1997 graduate, (BFA Graphic Design) it’s important to me that the Corcoran Gallery of Art remain in the building for which it was designed. Arguably the handsomest building in Washington, DC—and in a prime location beside the White House—relocating is an unnecessary and absurd suggestion.
A) Because the Flagg building is as much a piece of the collection as ‘Niagra’ is and Museum accreditation does not allow for the transfer of pieces of a collection except to acquire other pieces; B) Because the Corcoran is Federally chartered and cannot simply ‘sell’ their building; C) Because, as Samuel Beckett put it in ‘Waiting for Godot’ – “There’s man all over for you, blaming on his shoes the fault of his feet” – in other words the foolish choices that have been made time after time (from removing Mapplethorpe to Modernism would be a great title for an exhibition on the subject) are at the heart of the failure, not the building and location; D) Because bringing in consultants gives you a cut and run cookie cutter consultant answer; E) I could go on but I’ll stop here.
Just received my MA from the Corcoran this year. The Flagg building’s iconic architecture and advantageous DC location are part of CCAD’s unique identity. I recognize that the financial situation is challenging, but there must be another way. The building should be considered part of the collection. Don’t deaccession it!
The Corcoran College of Art + Design needs to be more involved in the future of the gallery. The building is part of it’s identity. Selling it is certainly not a good solution.
My CCA+D BFA degree is impressive to many people simply because they’ve visited the Corcoran Museum. The building serves as an ambassador to a conservatory arts education and implies a strong, impressive educational tradition in a way that no new suburban building can.
What’s more, one of the most valuable elements of my education was the independent urban experience of downtown DC. It is imperative that artists know how to survive and prosper in this environment and moving the college will strike an enormous blow to the quality of the education.
This would be a tremendous loss to the vitality of the contemporary identity of this city. DC is so rarely defined by its cultural identity outside being the national capital. Access must not be ushered to the suburbs.
I am an alumni, 1985 BFA in Photography. I believe that the Corcoran Art Museum and School is a Washington icon. That if the school is moved from the building, the prestige and notoriety that the building alone holds, will fade and so too will the institution as we know it. The power of its present persona is unmeasurable. If moved, the Corcoran School will no longer be held in the same esteem as it is presently and has been for the last hundred plus years. I disagree with the notion of moving the school and museum. What a waste of a historical site.
Having access to Washington DC and the myriad of other museums while attending school there was a great asset. If the Corcoran is moved to the Suburbs, all that accessibility will be lost, diminishing the rich resources that the present building allows.
Please reconsider moving the Corcoran.
This seems such a “throw the baby out with the bathwater” scenario – impossible to think they are truly serious! I challenge the Corcoran’s leadership to be open and honest with the public about its current difficulties and invite the communities that support it to develop radical yet sustainable solutions. This is where the effort should be focused. The Corcoran is a landmark institution located in a building with such a storied past that it’s difficult to imagine this is the best and only solution possible.
The Flagg building is at the heart and core of the Corcoran. It is a symbol in a city of symbols and selling it will reduce the value of the Corcoran as a whole and diminish the cultural identity the school in the city and in the scope of American art.
Moving the Corcoran to the Virginia suburbs sends a clear message: Art and education is secondary to profit. While the need to maintain a certain overhead is understood, any course of action should be considered before removing this important institute from access by the less advantaged.
I graduated c/o 2006. This building lives right across from the White House. It doesn’t get any more prestigious than that. Beautiful building, prime location, great artwork and architecture. Selling it would be a major blow to our collegiate history and identity.
Sell a national historic treasure – an esteemed cultural and educational landmark – without community input or any discernible efforts to find options?
I just graduated from this school and I think it is completely ridiculous for them to consider a suburban location to be more convenient for anyone involved in any way. Being able to study in such close proximity to rich historical artistic resources and having access to working industry professionals was DEFINITELY the most appealing aspect of my college education!! There should be a series of fundraisers to aid repairs, not a complete relocation.
I graduated from The Corcoran in 1992 with a BFA. One of the primary reasons I was attracted to the program was it’s location. I loved the proximity not only to the collection within the Corcoran, but to the wealth of art and culture just blocks away from the building. The Corcoran, as it was, is, and can still be moving forward, is all about its physical location. Without that, you simply have a ‘collection’ of art assets that might as well be shifted around like stock certificates in some bleak art-as-commodity fashion. The Corcoran is about bringing the arts to the people, in the context of our nation’s capital. Dissolve that fundamental framework and you will have effectively liquidated the institution. I urge that further work be done to identify radical solutions to the Corcoran’s financial structure, board structure, and even art programs, in order to keep it in DC.
Historic landmark buildings are precious in and of themselves, and this is even more true in this case where it houses a priceless collection of American Art and a thriving institution of higher learning that enhances the artistic and cultrual landscape of D.C.
The Cocoran is a wonderful historical building that cannot be replaced. It is part of the art of the museum and is part of the core of D.C. Its location near the White House is priceless. No suburban museum could take its place and attendance will surely come down if the move goes through. I am shocked and appalled by this vote!
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the Corcoran when I was 11-14 years old, taking drawing and sculpture classes. The experience later lead me to attend RISD to study sculpture and photography. That experience then lead me to practice architecture and town planning. The Corcoran has influenced thousands of young people to pursue their passion. This institution deserves to be resurrected and revitalized!
Please do not let this historic institution and building become yet another national treasure lost to American citizens for the private gain of a few.
My rising sophomore at the Corcoran College of Art and Design and our whole family is shocked.
I have heard and seen the nature of living in the capital of the nation and the amazing opportunities that comes with it. A pristine institution that allows her these opportunities was necessary and critical in her decision to attend the Corcoran, and to have that taken away from her after one single year is outrageous.
Moving the Corcoran away is taking away a sense of pride, dignity and passion for a university and museum that has claimed a spot in Washington DC for hundreds of years. Who leaves what could be the most impactful art museum site in America, a block from the White House, for suburbia? You are only disappointing and angering students, parents, and fans of the Corcoran.
As a mother of two artists, it is distasteful that the Corcoran would settle to sell.
I’m a Corcoran alum (BFA 1990) and as an art student, there was nothing more important than attending a school that, first of all, actually shared a building with a museum, and, secondly, was in close proximity to some of the finest (and mostly free) art institutions in the country. This access is priceless to a young artist.
I am concerned that the country must protect private and public art institutions such as The Cocoran Gallery of Art and its landmark building from opportunists and profiteers and those who would sacrifice public process for expedience.
Instead of selling, how about considering partnerships with groups like the American Institute of Architects who could apply all they’ve learned from their 2006 “Blueprint for America” project. Display talent along with the art!
D.C.’s art community needs a hub & the Corcoran, along with its students, is a great place that harbors creative minds.
This institution belongs not only to the inhabitants of the building, but to all who have ever viewed it’s work, the local community, and the students who scurry about in the basement. Not involving these “others” in the decision is unbelievable. As an alumna, the physical space of that museum and school was hallowed ground of creativity and time honored tradition – half the reason for attending. The voice of everyone who’s ever cared about that awe-inspiring place needs to be heard.
The building is part of Corcoran history. The building is part of what made my education unique and special. When I visit, I remember fondly my time there and it makes me want to give back to the school and make the trip to visit. If it were sold, I’m not sure that I would bother to make the trip to a new location, but I would make it a point to visit the old building, regardless of who the highest bidder is. That building is now part of my history.
The Corcoran is an important DC cultural institution and a decision to sell this historic buildign should not be made hastily and without opportunity for public input!