Corcoran Gallery of Art wants to hear from public on relocation

12 Jun

June 11, 2012 — 8:00 PM
by Lisa Farmer for The Examiner

The Corcoran Gallery of Art is holding a string of public meetings — beginning Thursday — on the board of directors’ recent announcement that it is considering selling the museum and moving it out of the District.

“We wanted to show the community is important to us just as the Corcoran is important to the community,” said Rachel Cothran, the gallery’s director of public relations. “This process isn’t just going to be a couple of weeks,” she added. “No decision has been made [on whether to sell the building], and we want this to be open and transparent.”

The museum’s trustees voted last week to explore the feasibility of relocating to a more “cost-effective” facility for the collection and the College of Art + Design, as the institution has been losing money in recent years and leaders say it’s too expensive to stay at their current location. The gallery has been housed in its historic Beaux-Arts building at New York Avenue and 17th Street Northwest since 1897.

Cothran added that the institution might even establish a community board that works directly with the Corcoran.

As a private institution, the gallery is not obliged to hold community meetings for input — but it does make for good public relations. Just 140 miles north in Philadelphia, the Barnes Foundation learned that the hard way when it was sued by museum members and supporters after plans to relocate were made public.

That museum, which was also founded by a wealthy art lover and has the world’s largest collection of Pierre-Auguste Renoir paintings, faced a similar situation as the Corcoran: The foundation wanted a larger building for its collection and educational arts component. The museum moved from the outskirts of Philadelphia into the city and opened its doors three weeks ago.

“It’s traumatic any time you want to change something, especially when people have grown to love it,” said Cara Schneider, a media relations representative for Philadelphia’s tourism bureau.

Thursday’s community meeting will be held at the Corcoran at 6:30 p.m. Future meetings dates are to be determined.

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