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Now that the Corcoran College of Art + Design only exists under the auspices of George Washington University, D.C. has essentially lost its most highly acclaimed art school. But contemporary art, student work, and historic artifacts remain on view at local universities you might not associate with cutting-edge gallery work or museum exhibitions. Here, some unexpected havens of fine art in the District’s hallowed halls of higher education.
If you want to learn how galleries operate and see student work…
Visit the Spagnuolo Gallery at Georgetown University, 1221 36th St. NW.
The Spagnuolo is a teaching gallery, where students and the public can interact with working artists over the course of the year. Art students display their work at the university’s satellite galleries throughout the year and at the Spagnuolo every May.
If you want to see contemporary art in a quieter environment…
Visit the Katzen Arts Center at American University, 4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW
In addition to presenting shows by contemporary artists throughout the year, the American University Museum houses the Watkins Collection, 6000 objects named in honor of C. Law Watkins. Watkins, the former head of the university’s art department, helped establish the school’s graduate art program (one of the nation’s first) in 1942. If the museum reminds you of the Phillips Collection, that’s because Duncan Phillips helped set it up.
If you want to see acclaimed works by African-American artists mixed with Renaissance and Baroque pieces…
Visit the Howard University Gallery of Art, 2455 6th St. NW.
Howard has housed an art collection in some form since 1870, three years after the university was founded. As a result, its permanent collection reflects a wide variety of interests. In addition to Renaissance and Baroque paintings, you’ll see African artifacts, European prints, and Henry O. Tanner’s “Return from the Crucifixion,” one of the gallery’s earliest acquisitions.
If you want to see Washington artifacts and textiles in the same building…
Visit George Washington University, 701 21st St. NW
GW is in the process of constructing a new museum that will house works from the Textile Museum and the Albert H. Small Washingtoniana Collection, which includes an original “Wanted” poster for President Lincoln’s assassin. The museum is expected to open in late 2014 or early 2015. In the meantime, events continue at the Textile Museum’s former location on S Street NW.