Friday, May 20, 2005

Weil on the Corcoran

Corcoran Fiscal Mess: Blame Management not the Building

By Rex Weil

David Levy describes the Corcoran Gallery of Art as more like a church than a business (Washington Post 5/20/05). Insensitive types who insist on examining the books just don’t understand.

Is it Levy’s contention that churches don’t need strategic plans, sound budgets, fair employment practices and transparent accounting procedures?

In fact, the Corcoran’s director wants it both ways. After all, he hauls in a CEO salary in the neighborhood of $300,000, while most of his employees makes less that $50K and the vast majority far less, with few or no benefits. Obfuscatory accounting practices -- that would make Enron execs blush -- have bled the Corcoran College to make the Museum look healthy. Sounds more like a business to me -- just not a very good one.

Levy’s strategic plan: Treat your major constituencies (members, students, employees and faculty) with contempt and buy your way out of problems with a celebrity building. Well, it might have worked, but it hasn’t. As the Corcoran’s new Board Chairman learned recently "support for the Corcoran is 'superficial.'"

Meaning (I suppose), that, although everyone would like to see the Corcoran succeed, most people (a) just don't feel like they have a stake in it; and/or (b) are disappointed with current management. Let’s face it: practically everybody in Washington knows someone who has left the Corcoran in frustration or disgust. (I left in December, 2004 after teaching there since 1996). That’s bound to have a major snowball effect in terms of community support.

What Levy has apparently failed to grasp from the beginning: You have to build support from the bottom up with good programs and good relationships. Build the base – with satisfied, dedicated employees, enthusiastic students and their proud families, members invested in ambitious programming, and a committed long-term faculty advancing the institution. Those folks are, in turn, your best fundraisers.

Instead, (according to the Washington Post), the Corcoran has spent over 22 million on the Gehry addition. One way or another, a good deal of that 22 million has come out of the hide of students and their families, employees, faculty and admission paying visitors in poor facilities, shameful employment practices and dreary programming. All in all, the institution’s core constituencies are bitter and alienated.

It didn’t have to be that way. The building was not a bad idea. But running the institution into the ground with the idea that the Gehry magic would eventually save the day – that was a very bad idea, indeed.

The Gehry building can only come to pass as a reward to the institution from committed, grateful constituencies for work well done over a long period of time. No, it is not going to pay for itself by generating new money from new visitors. Like the Hard Rock CafĂ© – every city will have one. Of course, the tour buses will slow down and point it out. What’s inside the building is the important part. That’s the part the Corcoran has neglected.

New management might still be able to make a case for the building. David Levy can’t.

Bulisova Opening

In spite of the rain, a fairly good Georgetown opening (and also one in Arlington) for Gabriela Bulisova.

And Ukrainian Television was in Canal Square covering the event and interviewing Catriona Fraser about Bulisova's photographs detailing the long lasting effects of the Chernobyl disaster upon a huge area of Europe and a large, forgotten segment of the Ukranian people.

Bulisova's exhibition is on until June 15, 2005.

Art in Transition

Art in Transition opens with art from members of at a space in Takoma Park on Eastern Ave. See details here.

The reception for the artists is this Saturday the 21st at 6pm!

DCist on Gehry

Mike Grass over at DCist has started an interesting comment thread on the whole Corcoran and Gehry issue.

DCAC Opening Tonite

Pinder at DCAC

Jefferson Pinder curates Superstition at DCAC and it opens tonite with a reception for the arists from 7-9PM.

The exhibition features Leslie Berns, Kyan Bishop, Stephanie Dinkins, Brandon Friend, David Krueger, Gina Lewis, Michael Platt, Christopher Randolph, Wilfredo Valladares and Adam White.

Jefferson Pinder selected artwork from those ten artists that deals with ritual and mystery. Each artist "seeks to personally define superstition, from mundane everyday rituals, to the transformative power of spiritual growth from artistic practices that form a passionate connection to the world."

Georgetown Openings

Tonight the five Canal Square galleries in Georgetown will have the new openings and/or extended hours.

We will have the DC solo debut of Gabriela Bulisova, who was the Best of Show winner at the 2005 Bethesda International Photography Competition.

The openings start at 6PM and go through 9PM. They are catered by the Sea Catch Restaurant and are free and open to the public.

This Week's Reviews

In the WaPo today, Michael O'Sullivan reviews "Close Up in Black: African American Film Posters," on view at the International Gallery of the Smithsonian's S. Dillon Ripley Center.

Yesterday in the WaPo, Jessica Dawson mini-reviewed our group glass show in Bethesda, as well as Kehinde Wiley's sold out show at Conner Contemporary and also "Rebecca Kamen: Meta" at the Emerson Gallery, McLean Project for the Arts as well as Elisabeth Lescault at Creative Partners Gallery.

In the City Paper, Louis Jacobson reviews Willy Ronis at Kathleen Ewing Gallery. Also in the CP, Joe Dempsey reviews "Collector's Choice" at Zenith Gallery. And the other Mark Jenkins reviews Gina Denton's installation at Flashpoint.

At the Gazette, Adam Karlin reviews the current group show at Harmony Hall. His colleage, Karen Schafer reviews "Portraits of Life" at the Technical Center at Montgomery College in Rockville.

At Thinking About Art, Kathleen Shafer reviewed Viktor Koen at our Georgetown space. And it was also reviewed by Alexandra Silverthorne at Solarize This.

At Drawer, Warren Craghead reviewed Kirkland's solo debut show at the University of Phoenix Northern Virginia Campus.

In The Georgetowner, John Blee reviews Woong Kim at Addison/Ripley.

Best Bet

The Washington Blade has the Tim Tate-curated "Compelled by Content" as their Best Best of the week.

Compelled by Content is at our Bethesda gallery until June 5, 2005.

Hot Pick

The Washington Times has the Tim Tate curated "Compelled By Content" exhibition currently at our Bethesda gallery selected as their "Hot Pick" of the week.

No Gehry?

"Hazel said he and fellow trustee Paul Corddry approached President and Director David C. Levy earlier this week and suggested he offer his resignation"
The above is from a WaPo article by Bob Thompson and Jacqueline Trescott on the financial woes of the Corcoran and possible suspension of the Gehry effort, which according to the story, could come as early as Monday, when the board is scheduled to discuss a new strategic plan for the Corcoran.

Read the story here.

Campello on Ichiuji

Both Bailey and Jenkins have expressed their thoughts on Melissa Ichiuji's Stripped non-performance. And I am thankful to them for adding their thoughts and words to our cultural soup.

Personally, I was both excited and pleasantly surprised by Ichiuji's project before it started; it showed a maturity and intelligence years ahead of most "art students."

And as the project developed, I visited her Live Update Website, and then eventually drove by the Corcoran, found a Doris Day parking spot right next to the building, and gawked at Ichiuji and the loads of tourists shouting questions and her and at each other.

Regardless of how it ended, I for one, applaud her courage, her ideas, her involvement, and above all, her ability to (as an art student), leave a strong footprint upon our art scene.

Bravo Melissa!