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GW signs deal with Corcoran, commits to $25 million in renovations

Media Credit: Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor
The Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, the National Gallery of Art and GW
signed final agreements Thursday.

Updated: May 15, 2014 at 5:58 p.m.

GW will spend $25 million on the first phase of renovations to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and its College of Art + Design, marking the University’s largest academic takeover in more than a decade.

The University signed the final agreement with the Corcoran and the National Gallery of Art on Thursday. The hefty financial commitment will include repairs to the Corcoran’s 115-year-old Beaux-Arts building, which has a marble facade that hides a leaking roof and outdated heating and cooling systems. The galleries will close Oct. 1 to prepare for construction.

The project will likely require several phases of renovations to the building, which will occur over an unspecified period of time. The first round of renovations will include improvements “critical to the building’s structural integrity,” such as to the roof, skylights, exterior walls and windows, University spokeswoman Candace Smith said.

University President Steven Knapp said in an interview Thursday that GW will pay for the renovations with $35 million from the Corcoran. The University will also likely sell the Corcoran’s Fillmore building in Georgetown, which may help pay for future renovation costs.

Knapp said GW would have to pay for future renovations at least partly through fundraising.

“It’s an opportunity to promote arts education and the arts, which I think sometimes get neglected in our culture these days,” Knapp said. “The arts are a central part of our lives and if we’re going to be a comprehensive University and as great as we have the capacity to be, I think it’s important we’re strong across the board.”

Tuition rates for currently enrolled Corcoran students will stay the same as before the merger, but could see moderate increases each year.

Undergraduate students entering the college in fall 2018 might have to pay full GW tuition, which is about $17,000 more than what they currently pay, depending on how the University determines an admissions and academics model. Students will continue to take classes at the institution’s 17th Street building.

Knapp said officials are still discussing how to absorb the Corcoran’s programs, and will consider creating a conservatory with a separate application process, similar to the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

“We won’t know that until we work out the programmatic model between our existing art departments and the Corcoran faculty and students,” he said.

The University will offer the Corcoran’s full-time faculty one-year contracts. Knapp added that Ben Vinson, the dean of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, will continue conversations with Corcoran faculty to discuss details of the merger.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we really need to think it through,” Knapp said Thursday.

The finalized agreements come several weeks after a top administrator at the Corcoran said talks were delayed because of the “complexity” of the agreement with the National Gallery of Art, which will house the Corcoran’s 17,000 pieces of art.

Corcoran faculty and local advocates have long attributed the Corcoran’s financial woes to mismanagement, lagging fundraising and a drop in gallery visitors, which led to a last-ditch effort to save one of D.C.’s oldest art institutions.

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