As Lawsuit Looms, 150 Corcoran Employees Stand to Lose Jobs

Unpopular merger would leave scores unemployed.

The Corcoran Gallery.
Photo: Art Around, Laura Padgett/Flickr.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art.
Photo: Via Wikimedia Commons.

More than 150 people could lose their jobs should the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design‘s proposed merger with the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University (GWU) go through, reports the Washington Business Journal.

The staffing cuts would effect roughly a third of those employed by the Washington, DC, institution, and could be implimented as early as next month. One third of employees are believed to have already gotten new jobs, and the rest (such as the curatorial department and the teaching staff) will be transferred to similar positions at the new partner organizations.

The Corcoran issued an Industry Closings and Layoffs WARN Notifications with the Department of Employee Services for all of its 465 employees on June 11, with an effective layoff date of August 16. The institution claims that most of those who will be effected will be part-time employees.

The merger, announced in May (as reported by artnet News), would see the Corcoran’s 17,000-piece collection split up among area museums, with the majority going to the National Gallery, which would organize exhibitions at the Corcoran’s former home. GWU would take over the Corcoran building, and continue to offer Corcoran College of Art + Design classes.

Currently, the group Save the Corcoran is working to block the merger on the grounds that it is a violation of the museum’s charter (see artnet News report). In order to follow through with its merger plans, the Corcoran needs to go through a cy-prés process that would give them court approval to change the terms of that 1869 document on that grounds that “the current means of implementing the mission have become impossible or impracticable.”


The Corcoran Gallery.
Photo: Art Around, Laura Padgett/Flickr.

According to the Washington Post, the institution has responded to the Save the Corcoran suit with a brief that calls the protest “obstruction for the sake of obstruction” that would have negative effects on the coming school year and force the immediate sale of pieces in the collection to maintain operations.

Though the alumni, students, former staff, and donors in the group argue that splitting up the Corcoran’s collection would essentially destroy it, the museum’s lawyers have dismissed their concerns in a 22-page filing in DC Superior Court.

“At bottom, the unhappiness that [the critics] voice in their papers is no basis on which to grant them standing or the relief they request,” reads the brief. “Whatever the depth of their emotional response, it is no substitute for an actual, substantive interest…Nor does it create a factual basis for allegations of mismanagement or the standing to bring those issues to the court.”

A hearing in the case is scheduled for this Friday at 2:30 p.m.

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