Among the most entertaining details to emerge from last week’s court hearings over the future of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design were visions of an alternative future heralded by philanthropist Wayne Reynolds. While Corcoran trustees are in court to pursue a cy-près petition to alter the institution’s charter and dissolve, Reynolds would rather shake up the institution’s board. The activist coalition Save the Corcoran summoned Reynolds as a witness in the group’s effort to block the partition of the Corcoran by proving that the trustees haven’t considered all the alternatives. That’s where the hearing got wild: Reynolds and company testified that were he (somehow) made chair, he would replace and expand the board.
Members of Reynolds’ shadow board include Washingtonian publisher Catherine Merrill Williams, former Washington Post executive editor Marcus Brauchli, former D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty—plus others who can’t be publicly named, according to reports. Here’s a list of shadow trustees we’d like to see Reynolds name as members of an (imaginary, at least for now) all-new Corcoran board.
One ex-mayor ought to be enough for any Washington museum board, but Reynolds might have the wrong one on speed dial. While both Fenty and Williams would suffice in any behind-the-scenes technocratic capacity, Williams always showed a softer touch when it came to reaching out to the city’s black community—something the Corcoran could stand to do, especially now that Chocolate City looks more like Chocolate Chip City these days.
What better way to welcome the Durantula to the 2016 Washington Wizards than by extending to him a position of prestige at the heart of Washington’s cultural infrastructure? As a Suitland, Md., native, Durant may even have fond memories of touring the Corcoran’s American and European collections, like many longtime residents who consider it crucial to the fabric of Washington. To the extent that these things matter—and that’s not terribly much—a tuxedoed Durant would make a powerful presence at the Corcoran Ball. But more to the point: Whatever it takes to get Durant on the ’Zards is fine by me.
Sheikha Rima Al-Sabah
Reynolds has pledged Washington socialite Buffy Cafritz a future spot as a Corcoran trustee should his 11th-hour bid for the future of the institution be successful. Cafritz belongs to a class of Washington regents for whom the Corcoran Ball once represented a major marker on the social calendar. While Cafritz would be a welcome addition to a board with a serious lack of presence in Washington, it’s Rima Al-Sabah, the wife of the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the U.S., who regularly tops silly lists of who’s who in Washington these days.
Linda Daschle is one of the most powerful lobbyists in D.C. and the top politico Reynolds named for his shadow board—a no-brainer. But her husband, Tom Daschle, enjoys a reportedly strained relationship with likely 2016 presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton. It’d be nice to have a Corcoran board member who could tap into the Axis of Centrism that might come to pass between Washington and Richmond. Assuming, of course, that the McAuliffes’ relationship isn’t anything like the McDonnells’.
A renewed Corcoran board ought to give more than lip service to the interests of the museum and the college, lest it wind up once again where it is today. (Noting, of course, that the Reynolds plan at present is a long-shot.) Huckenpahler is one of few Washingtonians who has taught at the Corcoran College and shown work at the Corcoran Gallery. He has a keen insight into the needs of artists, students, and—as a D.C. native—the city itself.
Absent in this conversation about the future of the Corcoran are any of its most visible alumni. Gunn, who was born and raised in Washington, both attended and later taught at the Corcoran College of Art + Design; he also delivered the commencement address in 2009. Gunn treads in the celestial spheres of wealth, fashion, and art, and yet he appears to have never lost sight of the spirit of DIY that characterizes the Corcoran. And if anyone knows about making it work, it’s this guy.
Photographs of Anthony Williams and James Huckenpahler by Darrow Montgomery. Kevin Durant CC 2.0 Commercial by Ytoyoda, DorothyMcAuliffe CC 2.0 Commercial by US Department of Agriculture, and Tim Gunn CC 2.0 Commercial, by Jennifer Boyer