Advocacy group moves to block Corcoran deal

GW has committed $25 million to renovate the Corcoran's aging building on 17th Street. | Hatchet file photo by Hatchet Staff Photographer Zach Montellaro.
Save the Corcoran, a group of curators, artists, professors and alumni, has called the Corcoran’s deal with GW and the National Gallery of Art “surrender and abdication.” File Photo by Hatchet Staff Photographer Zach Montellaro.
If an advocacy group has its way, the merger between GW and one of D.C.’s oldest art institutions will not happen after all.

Save the Corcoran filed a motion in D.C. Superior Court on Wednesday to prevent the dissolution of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Corcoran College of Art + Design’s nonprofit charter, which is a necessary step for the deal to move forward. The group is made up of arts advocates, curators, artists, Corcoran professors and several alumni.

In June, Corcoran trustees filed a petition to revise the Corcoran’s federal charter, which requires court approval, and propel the merger forward. The move would turn over the Corcoran’s buildings, artwork and college to GW and the National Gallery of Art.

Although a hearing on the issue isn’t until July 18, members of Save the Corcoran are already calling the move “surrender and abdication,” according to the complaint. They are also calling on the Corcoran to provide a financial audit, appoint a committee to review the deal with GW, order all art to remain in D.C. and reject the agreement if evidence emerges that mismanagement caused the Corcoran’s downfall.

For years the organization has slammed Corcoran officials for botching the institution’s finances.

“It is now evident that the Board of Trustees has stopped believing that the Corcoran can or should remain a vibrant, independent institution,” the complaint reads. “In the last several years alone, the Board has engaged in a bewildering, mystifying series of steps that violate its trust obligations and charter and cast its judgment into serious question.”

The complaint also claims that the merger will harm Corcoran alumni who may miss out on job opportunities if their degree loses value after the college joins GW.

Last month, GW administrators announced that the University’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences would envelop the 550-student design college, which could mean that arts students will pay full GW tuition in the future.

John Cavanaugh, the president and chief executive officer of the Consortium of Universities of the Washington Metropolitan Area – comprising 13 schools – wrote a letter to the D.C. assistant attorney general Wednesday supporting the Corcoran’s union with GW and calling it a partnership that represents the “best possible outcome.”

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