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Corcoran, arts departments to merge next summer

Paige James | Hatchet Photographer
Paige James | Hatchet Photographer

Updated: Feb. 18, 2016 at 11:41 a.m.

The faculty in GW’s two art programs will be housed in one department starting next summer, the director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design said.

The Corcoran should officially merge with the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences at the start of fiscal year 2017, Sanjit Sethi, the school’s first director, said. Faculty said the merger will help officially bring the two programs together, but are unsure of how faculty will be integrated.

CCAS’s arts departments, including the theater and dance programs, will move into the Corcoran, bringing together programs that currently exist separately in the two schools. Former Provost Steven Lerman first said in 2014 that GW’s theater and dance programs would come under the Corcoran in the future.

The merging of the two programs will bring the existing CCAS students, who tend to study art but not practice it, into the same curriculum of Corcoran students, who gain more hands-on experience in their programs, Lerman said then.

Sethi said the mechanics of merging schools and faculty have not been completely sorted out, but “philosophically” faculty and students already feel the merger has taken place. Sethi said he is currently working on how to make the best of the programs’ specialities as they come together.

“How do we take, for example, two remarkable photography programs, one in Smith Hall and one in the Flagg Building, and how do we make sure we find a way to enhance the best of those programs and provide excellent student experience for anyone who wants to study photography?” Sethi said.

He said he has met with faculty members to find ways to bring them together and advantage the resources and faculty expertise in both programs. Sethi began his role at GW in October after leading the Santa Fe Arts Institute for two years.

“My meetings with faculty from these different creative disciplines have been overwhelmingly positive about how this merger happens,” Sethi said.

Faculty in CCAS and the Corcoran said they are unsure what the merger means for their jobs and how it could impact staffing. Twenty-nine Corcoran and CCAS art faculty did not respond or declined to comment for this story.

Alexander Dumbadze, the deputy chair of the department of fine arts and art history, said he has been talking with Sethi generally about how art history will be incorporated into the Corcoran and about the post-move curriculum.

“There’s a lot of work ahead but there’s tremendous potential, and I think this will be a really good thing when it’s all up and running,” he said.

Lisa Lipinski, a program head and associate professor of arts and design at Corcoran, said she has been in conversations with Sethi about the merger happening in “steps,” but declined to give specifics on what those meetings have included.

Lipinski said none of the Corcoran faculty have tenure, but that some could have an opportunity to earn tenure after the merger. Currently, most Corcoran faculty do not have job security without having tenure.

“Not all are tenured and not everybody here is tenured,” Lipinski said about CCAS and Corcoran faculty. “There are still a lot of questions. We’ll be making decisions in the future.”

Faculty from both Corcoran and CCAS have been involved in the conversation, she added.

About 150 Corcoran employees, mostly part-time faculty and staff, were laid off in the summer of 2014, after the merger was announced.

GW announced the plan to absorb the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in February 2014, and officials said at the time they hoped the merger would make GW a hub for the arts in D.C. All Corcoran students have to complete GW’s general curriculum requirements.

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