The InTowner
To receive free monthly notices advising of the availability of each new PDF issue, simply send an email request to and include name, postal mailing address and phone number. This information will not be shared with any other lists or entities.

Advertisement

CORCORAN – continued from August issue PDF page 5

If a “white knight” arises like a phoenix out of the ashes of a failed cy près petition in this matter, it could probably be the charismatic president of the University of Maryland, Dr. Wallace Loh, who testified as a witness called by the intervenors after receiving a subpoena to appear. Dr. Loh’s testimony was literally captivating. He spoke as a spurned suitor left at the altar following what he considered a successful courtship by the Corcoran, culminating in a personal presentation of a best and final offer delivered to a meeting of the Corcoran Board of Trustees — after which, he testified, the board members applauded him and hugged him; it was a “love fest, and I hug back,” he reported.

Loh further characterized his vision of the proposed partnership as one where the two parties would retaining their separate identity, award their own degrees, share their strengths and expertise, and provide each other with tangible, identifiable benefits.

Maryland would gain a relationship it greatly desired, Loh stated, filling a void in its panoply of great programs and the Corcoran would gain a powerful force in attaining financial stability and benefiting from the power of scale provided by the University. The two parties would be independent of each other but joined together like in a marriage.

Loh’s account of the sudden failure of what he thought was a successful conclusion to months of interaction in a complex set of negotiations differs dramatically from that of Harry Hopper. Its reversal and the sudden and unexpected announcement of the deal’s dissolution the announcement of the deal between the Corcoran and GW and the NGA is one of the many major mysteries of this entire saga. The reconciliation of these two differing accounts will be one of Judge Okun’s most important tasks in reaching a verdict on the Corcoran’s cy près petition.

The intervenors’ three expert witnesses provided a series of fascinating compressed tutorials in the interstices of art museum, non-profit cultural institution, and corporate development and financial planning for sustainable operation, as well as the primary factors involved in successful fund-raising in the context of a professional individual donor development program. This latter issue was reinforced on the last day of the evidentiary hearing with testimony by Ann Smith, formerly of the Corcoran’s Development Office and previously for eight years in the development office of the Art Institute of Chicago, one of the great art museums in America and, like the Corcoran, possessing a well-known art school.

Smith spoke of the Corcoran’s dysfunctional development office and its lack of professional individual and major gift programs. During her tenure the Art Institute raised $400 million in a successful capital fund drive for the Institute’s new Renzo Piano wing for contemporary art with the leadership of a board of 100 trustees. The final witness, Caroline Lacey, a graduate student in New Media / Photojournalism, gave eloquent testimony on the reasons she chose the Corcoran for a professional degree program rather than a large university like GW.

Final arguments were presented to the court in summary presentations by the three parties to the cy près controversy on Wednesday, August 6th, followed by questions from Judge Okun. Among additional issues raised by the Judge was the question whether if the cy près petition is denied, would a new cy près petition be required for the Corcoran to enter into a partnership with the University of Maryland as outlined during the course of the hearing. (Dr. Loh responded enthusiastically in the affirmative to the question of whether he would again pursue a “marriage” between the university and the Corcoran as independent partners should the issue be reopened). The Judge also asked about the amount of deference and its weight, if any, that should be shown to the trustees; the definition of impracticable in the context of cy près; and, given the expedited nature of this case, will the losing party plan to offer a motion for a stay while planning an appeal, or will the losing party simply appeal.

Judge Okun then retired to his chambers to make his decision and issue an order — on a date yet to be known but a date mindful of the case’s expedited schedule.

Copyright © 2014 InTowner Publishing Corp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited, except as provided by 17 U.S.C. §§ 107 & 108 (“fair use”).