After being jilted by the Corcoran Gallery last year, the University of Maryland has found a new partner in the arts — the Phillips Collection.
The university announced Monday that it has come to an agreement with the private D.C. museum to expand the university’s presence in Washington, energize the museum’s educational programs and bring more art to audiences in the District and on campus.
“I feel like a phoenix rising from the ashes,” U-Md. President Wallace D. Loh said.
The collaboration will create the University of Maryland Center for Art and Knowledge at the Phillips Collection and launch joint programs in art, music, research and technology. Eventually, there will be a new gallery and open storage facility bearing the Phillips Collection’s name on or near the university’s College Park campus in Prince George’s County.
The agreement emphasizes programs and research opportunities for the university’s 37,000 students and 9,000 faculty members, but it also includes events and programs for the public.
The partnership comes about a year and a half after the university was rebuffed in its attempts to merge with the financially troubled Corcoran Gallery of Art and its art school. The Corcoran had been negotiating with U-Md. for months but abruptly ditched a deal in February 2014 in favor of an agreement with the National Gallery of Art to absorb the art collection and with George Washington University to absorb the school of art and design.
“The case with the Corcoran was not quite a partnership. It was more a friendly takeover,” Loh said. “This is a partnership between two equals . . . who have their own interests and have found commonalities.”
The institutions plan to create academic courses — from art and art history to arts management, cultural diplomacy and conservation — for its undergraduate and graduate students and to offer extended-studies courses and seminars for the community. There will be internships and postdoctoral fellowship at the Phillips, which has one of the world’s most respected collections of Impressionist and modern American and European art.
Public lectures with scholars from U-Md. and other universities will be held on campus and at the museum on 21st Street NW. The university also will co-present a new music series at the Phillips, collaborate on the museum’s annual International Forum Weekend, and be the primary presenter of its “Intersections” series of contemporary art exhibits. The university also will help digitize the Phillips’s 9,500-piece archive of scholarly books, catalogues and correspondences.
“This is a new series of adventures, beyond the realm of art, with all sorts of multidisciplinary approaches,” said Phillips Collection Director Dorothy Kosinski, who described the partnership as “a transformative marriage” that builds on the museum’s previous collaborations with the University of Illinois and others. “I am proud of my tendency to say, ‘Sure, why not [to partnership opportunities]?’ It has made the Phillips into a trusted institution, open to risk-taking and new ideas.”
The agreement is for six years, extending through the museum’s centennial in 2021. The university expects the programs to cost about $500,000 a year, in addition to in-kind services. The Phillips won’t be contributing cash, but it will provide use of its facilities and the expertise of its curators and conservators.
U-Md. students, faculty, staff and alumni association members will receive free admission to the Phillips Collection and have special access to its collection and facilities for research and educational purposes.
“In the sciences, you can’t be a great university without great laboratories,” Loh said. “It’s the same thing with the arts. You have to work with raw materials. This is the art laboratory we don’t have.”
The university also is gaining a home base in the District for events and performances. “We are eight miles from the nation’s capital,” Loh said, “but those might as well be eight light-years. Now we have a footprint . . . and it’s such a superlative location.”
Kosinski is equally enthusiastic about having a branch of the Phillips in College Park, although the details of that part of the agreement are fuzzy. The university expects the facility to cost $30 million to $40 million, and Kosinski said it should be open around the time of the museum’s centennial.
“Our collection has grown over 20 percent,” she said. “What better way to fulfill a key mission than to have a facility on the Maryland campus?”
U-Md. Provost Mary Ann Rankin said the faculty is enthusiastic about the agreement’s multidisciplinary opportunities. And after being disappointed by the Corcoran’s decision, many members of the university community are excited about the possibilities of aligning with an art museum, she said.
“We spent all last year talking about this,” Rankin said, “and then we were sort of left at the altar.
“Having an affiliation with an esteemed art museum elevates the university. Most of our peers, and certainly our aspirational peers, have an association with distinguished art museums. We’ve always been strong in STEM [science, technology, engineering and mathematics], but not so well known in the fine arts. This is going, in one jump, to put the shine on and take us to another level.”