Statement about the Corcoran from Alliance President Ford Bell
On Wednesday, Feb. 19, the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, the National Gallery of Art and The George Washington University announced a proposed collaboration between the three institutions. Under this collaboration, the Corcoran College of Art + Design would become part of The George Washington University and the Corcoran Gallery of Art would become the responsibility of the National Gallery of Art. The following is a statement from Alliance President Ford Bell on this proposed collaboration.
Museums are educational institutions, economic engines and community assets, but they are also businesses. The Corcoran was faced with challenges of the kind that might prompt less high-minded organizations to fold up the tents and go home. But the Corcoran persevered for years, exploring numerous solutions, and now has landed on what might be a business model for struggling mid-sized museums going forward.
Here are the positives: the collection will not be put on the auction block, which would violate every museum standard and the public service mandate of all museums. Just look to Randolph College to find the alternative approach. The magnificent Corcoran building will be saved; there was a distinct possibility it could have been gobbled up by a developer and converted into heaven knows what. And the renowned school will be in stable financial hands, bolstered by the support services that can extend its influence.
The Corcoran tried for years to raise money to meet its physical plant needs, while staying true to its mission. The “Corcoran community” that critics of the deal say is being betrayed was not able to come up with the resources needed to maintain the current model. The George Washington University and the National Gallery of Art found a way forward. It is not hard to envision the alternative: the fabulous Corcoran collection in private hands, the school dissolved, the building razed and perhaps replaced by a kitschy (or bland) hotel. This scenario is not as fantastical as one might think. This partnership between three prestigious institutions may be a glimpse into the future of cultural non-profits, as more of these organizations find themselves competing for a slimmer share of a limited philanthropic pool, with government funding at all levels continuing to shrink. Is this a perfect solution? No. But given the realities confronting the Corcoran, this is a win for art, for ethics and for all of Washington.
For further information, please see the Corcoran’s press release.