ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse


Corcoran Quality

“…rich, expansive and uniquely integrated academic curricula grounded in real-world experiences.”

A Quote from the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design Graduate Studies webpage 


As prospective college students spend the summer looking forward to starting a new chapter in their lives, they need to understand the consequences of the decisions made about about schools and majors. Straight from the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Washington, DC, comes a cautionary tale about studying art at the college level.

In the Washington Post, Philip Kennicott wrote about the collapse of the Corcoran School of Art and Design and its associated gallery at this link: “The Corcoran Gallery is going away just as its mission is more important than ever.”

First founded as the Corcoran School of Art in 1890, the school was the result of the can-do, civic-minded energy typical of the Modern era. The school was the legacy of William Wilson Corcoran, a wealthy merchant and collector of American art. According to Kennicott, Corcoran held an idealistic view of putting an art school right in the middle of the nation’s capitol; his hope was:

“Art would guide politics, forge an American identity, spur patriotic sentiment, reform morals and instill a sense of excellence in the nation’s leaders.”

Poor Corcoran had more vision and imagination than the art world he supported so optimistically. In the twentieth century the arts were quickly co-opted by the global Utopian statists. The elitist art world has no interest in serving the national interest; there’s nothing less fashionable to these totalitarians than American identity, morals and excellence.

As a result, the establishment art world is toxic to almost everyone who is not hooked into it in some professional or virtue signalling capacity. Kennicott gets a twofer here, as he is being paid to write about it, and he gets to broadcast that he, too, shares in the  puzzlement the coastal aristocracy feels when the public roundly ignores the corrupted stylings of our contemporary cultural institutions:

“When it comes to art in America, there has been both a triumph and a failure of confidence: American artists are second to none, in a country where art has become marginal.”

“And the Corcoran’s collection, even those ‘nudities and crudities,’ is newly relevant to scholars studying art through the lens of social history, race, gender and identity.”

Does it ever occur to him that the academic dogma of viewing art through the lens of the grievance mongers is part of what CAUSED art to become marginalized? Of course not. It would be blasphemy against his religion of elitist omnipotence.

The Corcoran played an uncomfortable role in the culture wars on 1980s and 1990s, getting caught in the crossfire between the decadent upscale art market and politicians fuming about public funding of objectionable works. The institute underwent decades of financial hardship; their landmark location needed $130 million in repairs, a bill they could not pay. Finally the Corcoran was dissolved; in 2014 the school was adsorbed into George Washington University, and the $2 billion art collection was donated to the National Gallery of Art.

Another recent article captures the wailing and the gnashing of teeth now that the Corcoran is awkwardly grafted onto GWU, at this link: Multiple Facility Layoffs Reported at Corcoran School. It’s reported that only 9 of 19 facility will be retained. The students were already unhappy at the costs and complexities of their new university, and one cheery announcement about a visiting professor can’t undo the impact of a cut of half the staff.

The announcement was made by school director Sanjit Sethi. His website bio is a masterpiece of SJW inflected status jockeying and credential collecting, the sort of resume polishing dear to elites as a substitute for actual achievements and quality results. In his art, we are informed, he “deals with issues of nomadism, identity, the residue of labor, and memory.” It’s the kind of typical crypto-Marxist art babble that can make you wince. Residue of labor sounds like something you’d scrape off your shoe, not hang on your wall.

The students are inconsolable. They send tweets of lament like “Whatever was left of @CorcoranDC is gone now. @GWtweets has destroyed it,” and “Curious what non arts conscious people in the arts looks like? Take note of @GWtweets treatment of @CorcoranGW. How do you still not get it?”

The sad truth of it is, thanks to the excesses and abuses committed by the establishment art world, “non arts conscious people” is practically the entire population. I wonder if these mournful students are so upset because they recognize their own diminished prospects for future employment in arts education.

Once you reach an certain level of academic training, with its space space huddling, trigger word hysteria, and Post Modern relativistic bullshit, you really aren’t fit for any other kind of life.  The goal was become a cog in the indoctrination machine, where you could lord over the next generation of pod people, training them in the ways of sophistry and presumption, just like the “education” you got.

But with the ongoing challenges to colleges in general, and art schools specifically, the opportunities will be far fewer. Good luck in trying to actually build an art career using the ridiculous and off putting priorities, attitudes and practices of the Ivory Tower.

That stuff doesn’t  work in real life.

See my previous article in this series at this link: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 1: Eric Fischl

Update: Welcome Instapundit readers! Please see other articles here for more commentary on the state of the arts.

17 thoughts on “ARTICLE: The Death of University Arts Programs, Part 2: The Corcoran Collapse

  1. I love it when the world of establishment art, SJW’sm, etc, (ably described above), collides with the world of arithmetics (or reality). The establishment we now have has words and narrative at their command (Marxist babble, I love that) and gloss over almost every wart or blemish in their world for a time, but arithmetic is inexorable and invincible.

  2. “Their time is running out ” Oh, I agree very much so. I don’t really know much about art, but I know a little about people. What underpins these guys system of beliefs regardless of whether it is art, politics, or anything else for that matter is their way is overseen by angels which quite by chance happen to be them. Since angels are divine they can’t make mistakes therefore they are always surprised when their game collapses and the cause is always attributed to bad luck or the work of the devil (the ignorant foolish ones….us).
    Some conservatives and to make a good example the founders of our country realized that all is comprised of people capable of the best and the worst, and is therefore in need of limitations (ie constitutions etc).
    So in the art world the established will be swept away and what will replace it will be good at first, but will then deteriorate over time. So like everything else even art must always be considered with a skeptical eye.
    Well that’s enough pointy head talk.
    By the way what is the photo at the head of the article about?
    Ps. Those that have made it and rule the roost in art will do almost anything to hold their place and “art” be damned if necessary.
    Pps. Perhaps the use of “the devil” was a little strong but it made a good analogy.

  3. The picture in a detail from a work from a Corcoran School of Art student. It’s always nice to elect yourself an angel, because then anyone who disagrees is automatically evil and wrong. I’m enjoying being part of a movement that is reminding the power brokers of last 50 years that they are in fact not angels at all;in fact, evidence suggests they are dumb asses.

  4. Angels to dumb asses is a long fall from heaven. You guys keep it up the good work and there will be a lot of feathers laying around.

  5. […] “…rich, expansive and uniquely integrated academic curricula grounded in real-world experiences.” –A Quote from the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design Graduate Studies webpage. [Example of a Corcoran student’s work above, with quote, found here.] […]

  6. Back when I was an undergraduate and dinosaurs roamed the earth, I planned to earn a doctorate in Art History at NYU and devote myself to writing for the general public, explaining to them the exciting and meaningful world of contemporary art. Missing out on that career was the luckiest escape of my life!

  7. As an art history major in the pre-PC days I thank you.

    Art is completely degenerate now and ugly; when I feel my old passion for art, I go see the Impressionists in Chicago.

    Beauty is still beauty.

  8. “American artists are second to none…”
    Oh? I have a FB artist friend who is an immigrant from Russia. She keeps posting work Russian artists of which hte realists have excellent work: the KGB didn’t destroy their own country’s traditions.

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