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Corcoran ‘memorial service’ draws costumed crowd

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Natalie Maher.

The steps of the Corcoran Gallery of Art were crowded with artists, students and former staff members Saturday for a mock funeral service days before the gallery is set to close for renovations.

Since the announcement of the Corcoran’s merger with GW and the National Gallery of Art, the advocacy group Save the Corcoran has bemoaned what members call the downfall of the Corcoran’s legacy. The University acquired the Corcoran’s college and building last month, while the National Gallery of Art took custody of the Corcoran’s art collection.

About 40 people met on the steps of the gallery’s 17th Street building to listen to Linda Simmons, a curator emerita who helped organize the event, read on obituary followed by “memorial remarks” from Carolyn Campbell, a former Corcoran Gallery of Art spokeswoman and a member of the Save the Corcoran advisory board.

“It is a tragedy that a 145-year-old collection is being dismantled for the community, for historians, for history,” Campbell said.

Attendees were told to wear black or “dress in period clothing of the Victorian era as a tribute to William Wilson Corcoran: black arm bands, men in mourning coats, women in dark veils with black umbrellas,” according to a release.

Eugene Daymude, an art dealer who flew to D.C. from New Orleans for the event, said the gallery’s closing was an “airbrushing of American history,” and said that the eventual divvying up of the art collection would not honor “the artists’ original intentions.”

Still, Daymude said he thought GW’s acquisition of the Corcoran College of Art + Design would “broaden academics and provide more stability to students.”

The Corcoran, one of the oldest private arts institutions in D.C., suffered from years of financial strain. GW will pay $25 million for the first phase of renovations to the Beaux-Arts building, and costs could eventually total $80 million.

William Wooby, an arts developer and self-proclaimed “supporter of the Corcoran, but not its board,” said the merger would provide Corcoran students with more “creative space.”

“It’s sad, but at least it’s not going to disappear,” Wooby said.

Corcoran freshman Mary Arnold said she worried her school would lose its tight-knit feel, echoing many of her classmates.

“It’s a shame because the small community is what holds us all together,” she said. “They need to remember that we’re an art school and we’re still Corcoran. We’re not going to merge gently.”

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