Columbian College Dean Outlines Corcoran School’s Progress

Ben Vinson III explains Corcoran vision, future programs and financial plans at Friday’s Faculty Senate.

Ben Vinson
Columbian College Dean Ben Vinson III discussed the vision for the new Corcoran School of the Arts and Design.
October 10, 2014
The ultimate goal of the new Corcoran School of the Arts and Design will be to promote interdisciplinary approaches to art and foster an environment that encourages students to experiment creatively, Columbian College of Arts and Sciences Dean Ben Vinson III said at Friday’s Faculty Senate meeting, led by George Washington University President Steven Knapp.
The historic arts agreements among the George Washington University, the National Gallery of Art and the Corcoran became final last August. Corcoran faculty, students and staff joined the GW community at the start of the academic year, but, as Dr. Vinson explained, there is still work required to ensure GW’s Corcoran School exemplifies “a home for the engaged liberal arts.”
“We are well positioned to integrate our curriculum and create a school that sparks the imagination of our students, builds collaboration across disciplines and significantly raises GW’s profile in the arts,” Dr. Vinson said.
The university has enrolled approximately 304 full-time Corcoran students this academic year, and it will maintain Corcoran signature programs, including the annual NEXT exhibition and other celebrations of student artwork. Beginning in 2015, students will be admitted to the Corcoran based on GW admission standards.
One key part of the partnership, Dr. Vinson said, will be to create innovative programs and relationships that connect the arts with other disciplines at GW. Already, collaboration has occurred between Corcoran students and the broader university: Dr. Vinson shared that a student recently contacted him about finding ways to make art glow. Dr. Vinson paired the student with the chemistry department, and the partnership taught the student to work with phosphorus to achieve his artistic goal. 
Students also can now take advantage of more than 100 arts courses. The university hired 25 staff members and 21 full-time faculty members to support the Corcoran School. Conversations are underway to develop shared curricular goals between Corcoran and Columbian College faculty, and the university’s undergraduate and graduate programs have benefitted greatly from the Corcoran’s strength in fine arts, graphic design and photojournalism, Dr. Vinson said. 
Dr. Vinson also explained that he sees the Corcoran School collaborating with top D.C. arts institutions, including the Smithsonian, the National Gallery of Art and The Textile Museum. Students will attend on-campus lectures featuring art professionals, and will interact with local, national and international artists and scholars through resident programs GW plans to sponsor.
Through terms of the arts agreements, GW received approximately $43 million, as well as the Corcoran’s Fillmore and 17th Street buildings. The university will vacate and sell the Fillmore building by summer 2015. Profits from the sale, and the funds from the agreements, will go toward supporting the operations and creative vision for the school. The university also will strengthen philanthropic efforts by pulling on new donor prospect pools and fostering ties with the larger arts community. 
The 17th Street building will undergo infrastructure upgrades and modifications to create expanded classroom and lab spaces. An estimated $80 million in renovations are anticipated and will be conducted in phases over time. Dr. Vinson said he envisions the space promoting cross-disciplinary education, similar to the Science and Engineering Hall.
Dr. Vinson explained that the school’s direction will advance once a permanent director has been selected. Professor of Theatre Alan Wade and Director of GW’s Interior Architecture and Design Program Stephanie Travis currently are serving as interim director and assistant director, respectively. Professor of Music Douglas Boyce is chairing a national search committee that will include Corcoran faculty, other members of GW’s faculty and students. The university also will collaborate with consultants, who will visit campus to help map out the school’s progress. 
“We seek an experienced leader and practitioner of the arts, a consensus builder with a demonstrated passion for interdisciplinary education who can develop new lines of inquiry that may transcend the arts,” Dr. Vinson said.
Professor Emeritus and Senior Advisor to the Executive Vice President and Treasurer Edward Cherian is managing the school’s transition. Cheryl Beil, associate provost for academic planning and assessment, is leading an accreditation process with the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. The process is targeted for completion by fall 2015.
Friday’s Faculty Senate meeting also included an introduction of Student Association President Nicholas Gumas; a presentation from leaders of the GW Faculty Association; and remarks from Dr. Knapp, Provost Steven Lerman and Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Charles Garris.