The Corcoran Gallery of Art board of trustees yesterday unanimously voted to appoint Christina Orr-Cahall as director and chief executive of the Washington museum and the school of art, officials announced. She is the first woman to be named to the post.
The 40-year-old Yale-trained art curator and educator, who currently heads the art division of the Oakland Museum, will assume the Corcoran job in February. It has been vacant since June.
"Her selection augurs well," said David Lloyd Kreeger, president of the Corcoran board. At Oakland, "there has been expansion and progress, fine exhibits, respect for budgets," he added. "I think we got a good one."
Orr-Cahall, in a telephone interview, said, "It's an important challenge in a city with a healthy arts environment." She outlined some ideas she has for the museum: "I'd like to initiate a more active contemporary role, consider more acquisitions and work on some long-term goal-setting."
Orr-Cahall's background meshes well with the job at the Corcoran. The Corcoran is seen as "Washington's museum" in a city full of national institutions; Oakland shares a similar status in its Bay Area community. Both emphasize American regional artists.
Orr-Cahall also has teaching experience, as an art history and museum studies professor at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo.