The Corcoran Gallery and College of Art and Design has been a member of the Washington DC art community for as long as I can remember.
Since the recent stream of articles about a possible move, my husband (another Corcoran graduate) and I have been reminiscing about our experiences as students from the early to mid -1980’s. We remember a dynamic place that drew us because we could see that something was happening and we wanted to be a part of it. We’ve been trying to match our experience with what we see happening now. It’s been hard.
David Montgomery’s recent Washington post article “The Corcoran’s Failure to Connect” offered a clue. The article does a deep dive into the financial crisis at the Corcoran including issues surrounding the endowment and fundraising.
He refers to the period of the late 70’s to mid 1980’s as one of relative stability where the institution appeared to be successfully dealing with a number of questions including the relationship between the school and the gallery.
I attended the Corcoran School of Art from 1981 to 1986 and graduated with a BFA. He attended from 1981 to 1985 and graduated with BFA in Photography.
The Art World Was Cooking
Locally, the Washington Project for the Arts was instrumental in giving local artists exposure at the original 7th street location. Many nights, students made their way over to gallery openings at both the WPA and other 7th street galleries.
The great Franz Bader was still running his art gallery and art bookstore. I have strong memories of going to Franz Bader gallery openings with my mom as a kid so I understood that Franz Bader was a major force in bringing modern art to the Washington area. As a Corcoran student, it was easy to take a break from the studio and walk over to the Bader gallery and bookstore and browse.
Downtown Washington was a Big Draw
Before I decided to go to the Corcoran. I had already been accepted with a full scholarship to a school in Philadelphia and had interviewed with the art department at Catholic University.
The location of the school was a major factor in my decision to attend.
I would later go back to the campus model and attend George Mason University for my graduate degree but when I was in my late teens and early 20’s, I wanted to be downtown.
The city was an extended part of the campus. We would meet at the National Gallery for drawing and art history courses. One time, I called the Hirshhorn and gained access to the museum library in order to research a paper on the sculptor, David Smith. During a women in art history course, the class had the opportunity to tour the private collection that became the core of the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
I value my experience as a Corcoran student. The building was an essential part of that experience.
Are you a Corcoran alumni? How much did the location of the building influence your decision to attend?