“All we are saying now is that we are looking into the issues involved in the Corcoran’s possible move,” DC AG spokesperson Ted Gest said by email. [Image: The Corcoran, via Flickr user Adam Fagen.]
Corcoran spokesperson Rachel Cothran confirmed that in June the attorney general’s office asked for a meeting with Corcoran officials and that the meeting took place in July. Update, 7/31/12, 3:15pm: Cothran emailed MAN at 3:07pm Tuesday to say that the timeline the Corcoran outlined to MAN this morning was incorrect. As has been noted above, the attorney general’s office asked for a meeting in June and the meeting took place this month.
“The Attorney General’s office is aware that the [Corcoran] board has made no decisions and that no actions are imminent,” Cothran said via an emailed statement. “Representatives of the Corcoran have assured the Attorney General’s office that it will be kept informed of all significant developments in a timely manner.”
As of publication time, Cothran was unable to specify what if any documents the Corcoran supplied, or whether the attorney general’s office delivered a further communication to the Corcoran in mid-July. [This post will be updated as more information becomes available.]
The previously un-reported involvement of the attorney general’s office adds a new twist to the Corcoran’s troubles. The institution has been plagued by substantial operating deficits and debt, problems it has recently tried to address by selling property, by entering into a long-term land lease and a related monetization.
In June, the Corcoran announced that it was looking into the possibility of selling its 115-year-old, Ernest Flagg-designed building on Seventeenth Street NW and that the it would explore a move, possibly to Maryland or Virginia. The story was first reported by Kriston Capps for the Washington CityPaper.
Corcoran board chairman Harry Hopper III later told the Washington Post that a move away from the Corcoran’s landmark building near the White House was a possibility: “One of the clear options for us to consider is relocating to a purpose-built, technologically advanced, flexible, multipurpose facility that could house an integrated educational operation, with the college at the core, coupled with the [museum] collection.”
Corcoran president and director Fred Bollerrer told the Post that the Corcoran’s next steps would include contacting the mayor of the District as well as the governors of Maryland and Virginia to inform them of the Corcoran’s interest in a new home.
The Corcoran’s stated interest in Maryland and Virginia seems to have prompted the attorney general’s interest. The District of Columbia attorney general’s office has jurisdiction over non-profits in order to enforce compliance with their charters. Gest said that at present the AG is looking into the Corcoran only in that capacity.
The Corcoran was chartered by an act of Congress on May 24, 1870. The incorporation states that the Corcoran be:
“hereby, created and constituted a body politic and corporate in law, by the name and style of the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art… and shall and may do and perform all other acts and things necessary or appropriate for the execution of the trusts createda nd conferred on them in and by a certain deed by William W. Corcoran, to them, the said parties hereinbefore named… one of the land records of Washington county, District of Columbia, to which reference is hereby made for greater certainty; the intent of this charter of incorporation being that the same shall be in execution of the trusts in the said deed declared and set forth, and not to any other intent or purpose whatever.”
Corcoran’s deed also specifically mentions siting the institution in Washington:
“William W. Corcoran, in the execution of a long cherished [sic] desire to establish an institution in Washington City to be “dedicated to Art” and used solely for the purpose of encouraging American genius in the production and preservation of works pertaining to the “Fine Arts,” and kindred objects, has determined to convey to a Board of Trustees the property herinafter described.