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Kennicott on the Corcoran

The leadership of Washington's Corcoran Gallery of Art is considering selling its building, a move that some critics of the gallery say would mean the effective death of the institution.

One critic who has spoken out about the potential move is the Washington Post's Philip Kennicott, who today posted a short, eloquent blog entry on the need to remind the leaders of non-profit institutions like the Corcoran what their mission actually is. (That mission, for the many people at arts institutions in this region and elsewhere who seem to have forgotten, is to serve and educate the public whose tax dollars fund the operation of such places.)

Kennicott's short post is well worth a read for the instruction it provides to local leaders, most of whom are far more progressive than the Corcoran's board but some of whom are susceptible to the allure of applying corporate thinking to non-profit administration. This kind of thinking is a clear and present danger to the vitality of Western New York cultural organizations, however healthy they may appear to be at this moment, and to the region's burgeoning artistic renaissance.

Here, at least for me, is the key quote from the post:

"What [the Corcoran] needs is new leadership and probably a new board, reconstructed with people passionately committed to keeping the Corcoran alive and vital in tough times. Donors will support a dynamic leader with an exciting vision for the museum. What’s on offer from the current leadership—institutional suicide—isn’t vision, it’s an unimaginative form of despair."

Local arts non-profit leaders should take heed and note that as fundraising continues to be a challenge, resorting to this kind of self-defeating thinking is exactly the wrong solution.

--Colin Dabkowski

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Art | Theater
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