More About the Corcoran’s Potential Partnership With the University of Maryland

The process of exploring the possibility of teaming up should be completed by the end of the summer.

By: Luke Mullins

The Corcoran Gallery of Art and the University of Maryland are considering teaming up, the institutions said late Wednesday.

In separate statements, the Corcoran and UMD said they have a signed memorandum of understanding that represents the first step in a potential partnership between the two.

Neither released details of what such a partnership might look like. The Corcoran said research and discussions regarding specifics would take place in the coming months.

UMD president Dr. Wallace D. Loh said in a statement that he would begin consulting with “faculty, students, staff, alumni, and friends of the university” to evaluate the partnership. Wallace said the exploration process would be completed by the end of the summer.

“A partnership with the Corcoran would provide our faculty and students with access to its world-class collection,” Loh said in a statement. “We could develop together, for example, new courses, joint degrees, and innovation studios in product design and digital arts that involve interdisciplinary teams of artists, engineers, computer scientists, and entrepreneurs. We will gain a physical footprint in a historic landmark, magnifying our presence in the nation’s capital.”

The Corcoran also announced it will exhibit pieces of the National Gallery of Art’s collection during the East Building’s upcoming renovations. The East Building’s renovations are expected to take three years.

The decisions, made at a meeting of the Corcoran’s board of trustees Wednesday, come as the city’s oldest art museum tries to revive itself in the face of plummeting donations, falling attendance, and wandering leadership.

The Corcoran’s financial crisis was featured in an article in the December issue of The Washingtonian.

Corcoran board chair Harry Hopper said the agreements represent only part of the Corcoran’s turnaround efforts. “We have rebuilt our fundraising team from the ground up,” he said in a statement. “We have a strategic framework for a new Corcoran. And we have an agreement with the National Gallery of Art and are in discussions with one of the nation’s most successful educational institutions, the University of Maryland.”

Hopper said he was “proud of this board’s accomplishments.”

Jayme McLellan, of the Save the Corcoran coalition, called the Corcoran’s agreement with UMD “the single worst case of management I have ever witnessed.”

“The trustees kept staff, faculty, students, and the wider community in the dark and left [them] to speculate about leadership’s incompetence. Students, staff and faculty are outraged that they weren’t involved in any way,” McLellan said in an e-mail. “Shame on the trustees for doing this to their community. Shame on them.”

The Corcoran’s board also pledged to keep the institution in its historic building on 17th Street in Washington.