When Michael Botwinick took over as director of the Corcoran Gallery of Art early this year, he immediately invited a bunch of local artists in for a chitchat. The gallery, the largest private one in the Washington area, had long been a sore point with local artists who felt it wasn't giving them their due and Botwinick wanted to do something about that. Local artists had talked with Corcoran officials in the past but it was, as Botwinick said, "sometimes a difficult relationship." Apparently the chitchat, which has developed into a series of regular meetings, has helped. As the saying goes, a "genuine dialogue" developed. "We spent a whole afternoon talking about the problems of sculpture," Botwinick said. "These were not adversary meetings. Once the dialogue was established, nobody yelled at anybody." Artist Sam Gilliam noted that Botwinick "listens well" and called the meetings "quite fruitful."

Recently Botwinick and the artists set up a subcommittee to make concrete plans for the next Corcoran "area show," still a year away. The subcommittee has met once with Botwinick to discuss whether the show should be single or multimedia, how nontraditional media should be dealt with, how the show should be juried, and so on. Painter Simon Gouverneur, a member of the subcommittee, said the group wants "a significant and really broad area show . . . Botwinick has been extremely receptive." Botwinick said the artists, solitary creatures by trade, have shown "a remarkable commitment to do this sort of communal work."