“As the students of the Corcoran College of Art + Design, we’ve seen our community hollowed out.”

Photo by PoPville flickr user Mr. T in DC

Thanks to a reader for passing on:

“Dear George Washington University,

As the students of the Corcoran College of Art + Design, we’ve seen our community hollowed out. Our faculty, staff and peers, the lifeblood of this institution, are struggling to define their future purposes in the Corcoran as it moves beneath the umbrella of your institution and the National Gallery of Art. Our administration informs us that the Corcoran’s curricula, buildings and the very people that make up our school are at risk for termination – or already dismissed. The future students of the CCA+D may enter a school that in no way resembles our beloved family.

The most important aspect and promise of this institutional agreement is that we function as our own “academic unit within the university’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.” The recent news of our entire staff’s termination, the infrastructure and institutional memory of our school, renders that promise moot and physically and spiritually guts our community and mission.

Since March 2013, we have repeatedly asked the Corcoran Director’s Office for a voice in decision-making processes and planning conversations going forward. We have been polite in our requests and made our concerns and priorities clear. Over the course of the last 15 months we have been granted a total of three meetings. It is our conclusion that the Directors’ Office neither listens to, nor represents, our point of view, thus we ask to engage with you directly.

Our appeals are simple and reasonable: honor your original promise. Let us keep the spirit of the Corcoran intact. We define that spirit as an extension of the Corcoran’s mission statement: Dedicated to Art and the Encouragement of American Genius. This occurs daily in our classrooms and galleries; it thrives as a result of our professors’ fostering our artistic abilities; it evolves as a result of interdepartmental collaboration; it is realized by our public exhibitions and our engagement with the global community.

We know and understand that things must change. We envision our small college

thriving within your university and becoming the 21st-Century art school about which you have spoken. Your actions function as an undermining of this very goal, and a destruction of everything that we have built over so many years. You don’t want this. You don’t want to start from scratch. You don’t want a demoralized student body and faculty. We think, as the students who came to this amazing arts school, that you would want all of the energy, the knowledge and legacy to be the foundation of this new and exciting center of the arts.

We realize that concessions must be made, but in order to retain any of the amazing qualities of our college, we require, first and foremost, its people. We require the immediate rehiring of key staff and a commitment for the employment of our faculty matching their commitment at the Corcoran. We require stability for our community outreach programs, including NEXT, ArtReach, Gallery 31, and all existing student organizations. We require intimate and interdisciplinary settings in which to learn from our professors. We require our faculty’s autonomy to create and administer our curricula. And we require a commitment from you to come forth with a plan for a collaborative vision.

Most importantly, these issues need to be addressed publicly and with the highest level of transparency. At all future discussions we need to have a meaningful presence and voice.

We ask for a consistent series of meetings scheduled with a representative student group and GWU representation, including Dean Ben Vinson.

Please add your name in support here.

The Corcoran Student Body
Corcoran Student Council
Alumni Steering Committee”

7 Comment

  • The Corcoran as an independent arts institution is done. The entire move was for GW to strip the assets (mainly: acquire the real estate portfolio), cut costs, and raise tuition.
    This was like having Bain Consulting take over your company and “restructure” it. When that happens, you’re f#cked.

  • I hope that letter made them feel better. Because it sure won’t change anything.

    • As a recent Corcoran Grad, those who wrote this letter definitely do not speak for all of us.

      As a business, the museum was poorly run. The collapse and dismantling of the museum was inevitable. Anyone who thinks otherwise will find it difficult to deal with the real world.

      • I agree and as a current grad student, there is a lot of room for improvement in the way the college is run too. Disappointing for sure, but I think this was a sound business decision and I am extremely grateful GW will not be increasing our tuition.

      • I totally agree with everything you are saying. I personally saw this coming two years ago. The museum and college seems to be resting on a culture of laziness. The programming of the museum is tired/boring/safe and doesn’t get ticket sales. I find it interesting that out of everyone that received a notice curatorial is staying. This isn’t a time to get nostalgic about the culture of the college. Art schools in general are failing and aren’t keeping up with there promise to art students. They’re relying on a 30 year old curriculum that doesn’t reflect the present day. All they are really doing is putting you in debt and making it even harder for you to become a buoyant working artist. Art schools should be looking at the DIY maker/hacker spaces as the new format of combining technology with creative “outside the box” thinking. The larger looming problem is the board of directors of these institutions. Are we really depending on bankers, lawyers, and accountants to provide sound judgement and direction for the future of our art foundation? What besides being rich qualifies them for this position?

    • Yup, that’s how it goes unfortunately. Sucks that students will have to go through the transition but its better than the school just folding.

  • As a former NGA employee I can tell you this, you can say goodbye to any students art show within the walls of that building (not in public view anyway).

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