Taking over an arts college comes with a hefty price tag.
University President Steven Knapp announced Tuesday that GW will spend $80 million overall to renovate the Corcoran College of Art and Design’s aging building on 17th Street, with the first phase costing $25 million. He testified in D.C. Superior Court as lawyers for the Corcoran finalize plans for the institution’s merger with GW and the National Gallery of Art.
The first round of renovations will fix problems like aging heating, cooling and mechanical systems, Knapp said. About $35 million for upgrades will come from the Corcoran’s own cash on hand, the Washington Post reported.
Tuesday’s hearing is part of a weeklong courtroom battle after a judge granted advocacy group Save the Corcoran legal standing to argue that financial mismanagement caused the Corcoran’s downfall. The group, which includes artists and lawyers, has been trying to block the merger.
In his testimony, Knapp defended the takeover as historic and a “model” for education in the 21st century.
“This partnership is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something truly powerful in the heart of the nation’s capital,” Knapp said.
Lauren Stack, chief operating officer for the Corcoran, also testified Tuesday. Stack said the Corcoran’s deficit could be as large as $10 million a year, which would have been higher if Corcoran officials had tried to renovate the aging building on their own. She also said the Corcoran had been struggling to find a successful business model for the last four decades, the Post reported.
An attorney for Save the Corcoran, Andrew Tulumello, questioned Tuesday’s witnesses and tried to prove that the Corcoran could have had surpluses if accountants hadn’t subtracted investment income from its bottom line. The group has for years slammed leadership at the Corcoran for mismanagement.
Sean O’Connor, an employee at a firm that had mentored gallery staff on how to court donors, said he doubted the Corcoran could pull in $10 million in a year. He said deep-pocketed donors haven’t given to the gallery in several years, though the Corcoran did meet its fundraising goal of $3.1 million last year.
Ten more witnesses will be called to the stand Wednesday. The hearing is expected to stretch into next week, rather than wrapping up Thursday as planned.