The arrangement would benefit the gallery side of the hybrid Corcoran, as well, with the university sharing some operational costs and giving Corcoran fundraisers access to Maryland alumni donors.
Corcoran Chairman Harry Hopper declined to estimate the exact financial gain the Corcoran could expect but said the “synergies are dramatic. . . . This is a major step forward, and can lead to a sustainable future for both the college and the gallery.”
A Maryland official said that the university would be willing to commit unspecified resources to the partnership. But before it can take effect, the parties must hammer out a detailed legal agreement, which could be signed this summer.
The announcement points the way to possible closure to a trying period for the Corcoran and its supporters. Despite heavy skepticism from detractors, the trustees stuck to their painstaking — critics said plodding — search for a solution.
Money is critical, because the Corcoran has been running operating deficits of about $7 million a year on a $32 million budget. Its very survival in Washington has been at stake in the past year, as trustees considered radical rescue plans, including selling the landmark Beaux-Arts building near the White House and moving to the suburbs.
The agreement with Maryland explicitly states that the gallery and the college would remain in Washington and that Corcoran students would still receive Corcoran undergraduate and graduate degrees.
“It’s not a merger, nor is it a takeover,” said Frederick Knops, a Corcoran trustee who served on the trustee committee that sifted various partnership opportunities in the past several months.
What’s in the deal for Maryland is the potential fulfillment of President Wallace Loh’s ambition to expand the university's offerings and influence in the creative arts, a standing priority of the public research university with more than 37,000 students. The university has programs in art, art history and performing arts, and is “prominent” in fields that integrate art and design, such as architecture, engineering and journalism, Loh wrote in a letter to the university community Wednesday.
“We will gain a physical footprint in a historic landmark, magnifying our presence in the nation’s capital,” Loh wrote. “The combined and complementary strengths of our respective institutions could lead to transformative excellence in education, scholarship and exhibitions in ways that would benefit our entire University, the region and beyond.”