Skip to main content

Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran School of Art + Design records

 Record Group
Identifier: COR0009.0-RG

Scope and Contents

The Corcoran School of Art Records traces the formation, administration, functions, activities, and philosophy of the School from 1878 to 2014. The records chronicle the numerous changes and improvements which occurred throughout the School's past, with the bulk of the material dating from and focusing on the School after 1967. Significant material types include advertisements, applications, brochures, catalogs, class schedules and timetables, correspondence, course descriptions, meeting minutes, memoranda, reports, student data cards, and syllabi.

The records include information concerning the School's early years, especially the activities of its students. Materials include the Register of Copyists, the Record of Awards given, student data cards, and the first student newspaper, the Corcoran Art Journal. Researchers should investigate other archival sources for more complete information on the School for these early years. These sources include the Director's Correspondence and scrapbooks, William D. MacLeod Journals, Trustee meeting minutes, Trustee Works of Art Committee Reports, student sketchbooks, and the School History clippings file. Records containing information on the School from the turn of the century uhtil the 1960s are diverse but oftentimes too unique or specific in scope, so that they provide a skeletal rather than a complete picture of the School. A variety of factors have led to the small amount of information for these years. In general, school administrative procedures were informal and irregular throughout this period. This minimized the volume of records created by the school. In addition, the size of the School staff was small, for many years composed only of a principal and a vice-principal (who both handled administrative duties and taught classes) and a secretary, first appointed in 1911. Moreover, by the 1950s seven people comprised the entire School staff who were capable of generating only so much material. Finally it is believed that some records for these years were discarded in the 1970s before the creation of the Archives.

Materials recording the most extensive kinds of information include annual school catalogs, the Record of Awards given, and student data cards. They provide insights into the School's annual progress, activities, and curriculum. Records of a more specific and sporadic nature include the E. F. Andrews Memorial Association Letterbook, Record of Copyists (until 1921), financial ledgers and student fees (3), and some special program brochures. Some administrative materials exist for the 1940s and 1950s, but they are limited and occasional. These include correspondence, mostly with George Washington University; memoranda, the majority concerning in-house school maintenance; and a few items concerning faculty, courses, and scholarships. Researchers should make use of these and other archival materials for information on the School for this period including annual reports, Director's correspondence (especially with School principals), Trustee meeting minutes and Works of Art Committee Reports, and the 0. P. Long "Student Notes on Art" notebook.

Records from the 1960s to the present contain voluminous, highly descriptive and complete information concerning the Corcoran School. A variety of material types record information on virtually all aspects of' the School for recent years and, after 1967, they provide significant material on all groups involved in the School-students, faculty, administrative staff', Deans, and Trustees. In general, materials point to an expansion in school staff, a regularity in administrative tasks and procedures, and a diversification in curriculum, accompanied by a more structured full-time student program. Materials from this period also fully document the School's continued commitment to improvement, focusing on the drive for national accreditation. Records demonstrate the growth of new organizations in the School-the Student Council, the Faculty Association, and the Trustee Committee on the Art School. They point out the growth in the administrative responsibilities of the School Dean and the variety of his concerns and activities. Materials from the late 1960s and early 1970s also reveal the tensions and conflicts which occasionally surfaced between some Corcoran staffers, coinciding with the many changes in both Gallery and School at that time.

Other prominent subjects noted in the records for these years include the Corcoran's relationship with George Washington University; the Corcoran School Abroad; School expansion (space) and renovation; the Saturday School; the School Budget; and administrative files on scholarships and awards and individual faculty members. Persons who figure prominently in the records include Gwen Goffe, Marie Hunter, Eugene Myers, Amanda Potterfield, Roy Slade, Carleton Swift, and Peter Thomas.


  • circa 1908-2019
  • Majority of material found within 1970 - 2014

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to research.

Access to student records is governed by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student education records. Student records are closed for the lifetime of the student, and are presumed to be open 75 years after the date of record creation.

Conditions Governing Use

To the extent that the institution owns copyright, the donor has assigned the copyright in its works to The George Washington University; however, copyright in other items in this collection may be held by their respective creators. For activities that the researcher determines fall under fair use as defined under U.S. Copyright Law, no permission to cite or publish is required. Please contact Special Collections if the copyright status of the materials you wish to reuse is unclear. Staff will provide additional information. For re-use of materials in the collection not created by the donor, researchers are responsible for determining who may hold materials' copyrights, determining if the intended re-use falls under fair use, and obtaining approval from the copyright holder if the intended use does not fall under fair use. For such materials, researchers do not need anything further from The George Washington University’s Special Collections Research Center.

Historical narrative

The first section of this history, covering events through 1981, was prepared by Corcoran Archivist Katherine M. Kovocs for publication in 1985 with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art Trustees first discussed the establishment of a "School of Design and Instruction" in 1873. The Trustees allowed copying, a popular form of art instruction in the nineteenth century, to be practiced at the Gallery soon after its official opening in 1874. Copyists were local artists or art students who, after receiving the permission of the Trustees, made copies of the paintings and statuary in the Gallery. Before granting such permission, the Trustees required each copyist applicant to submit a portfolio of his or her work to insure a certain level of competency. The Trustees allowed copying in the Corcoran because they believed that it provided serious art students invaluable instruction by developing artistic skills and techniques.

The Trustee Works of Art Committee devised the first set of regulations governing the conduct of copyists in 1875. By 1877 the practice had become so popular that when local artist Eliphalet F. Andrews proposed to freely instruct the Corcoran copyists, all concerned parties readily approved of it and accepted his offer. The following year (1878) William W. Corcoran donated the first allotment of money, $2,123.27, to be used solely for the formation of an art school in connection with the Gallery. By the end of the decade the Gallery's curator, William MacLeod, an artist and former art instructor, was well used to recording his observations on the copyists in his journal as well as reporting on their activities at Trustee meetings.

Concern over art instruction continued through the 1880s. In 1883 the Trustees approved the proposal for a Corcoran Gold Medal to be awarded annually to the most improved copyist working from statuary. Trustees considered the copying of casts and marbles rather than paintings more worthwhile instruction because it required the development of more rudimentary, truer artistic skills. They, in fact, were attempting to introduce the students to a traditional academic art program in which drawing classes progressed from drawing plaster casts, to antique sculpture, and, finally, to nude models. The Board believed that a competition in statuary copying would steer students toward this more solid, traditional form of study. The first Gold Medal Award was presented in March 1885.

Several other events took place in the 1880s which resulted ultimately in the formal establishment of the art school. In 1887 the Trustees appointed voluntary instructor E. F. Andrews to a paid instructor's position. In 1888 Mr. Corcoran died and bequeathed $100,000 for the formation of an art school. The Board of Trustees resolved the following year to erect a small building behind the Gallery for a school. On 6 January 1890 the Corcoran School of Art was opened with two instructors and forty students (This is often dated as the official founding of the School). One week later on 13 January the Trustees resolved that Corcoran's $100,000 bequest be set aside and reserved exclusively for School use.

The School enjoyed healthy expansion in the 1890s, so much so that each year the number of applicants exceeded the available teaching space. When the Trustees formed plans for the erection of a new Corcoran in the early 1890s, they were especially mindful of' the School's increased space needs. In 1897 the new Corcoran opened and the School shifted to its more spacious location. Instructors taught largely along "academy" lines with classes restricted to drawing, painting, and sculpture.

Steady growth and diversity characterized the School's development during the first half of this century. By the 1930s students were eligible for several awards and honors besides the Gold Medal and, in addition, could enroll in a greater range of courses, including classes in Graphic Design. In 1941 the School established an affiliation with George Washington University. Through this program students could earn a BA or an MFA degree from George Washington after completing studio courses at the Corcoran. (This George Washington University-Corcoran affiliation ended in 1976.)

The 1960s witnessed important changes in the School's philosophy and curriculum. In the early 1960s the Corcoran introduced new Saturday School and Summer School programs. They were designed to enhance the School's traditional feature of a multi-level system of programs and to separate the students enrolled in them. The goal was to create an autonomous group of full-time Corcoran art students and establish both a professional atmosphere and a more structured curriculum. Toward this end a certificate program (two-year, full-time) and a diploma program (four-year; full-time) were begun in 1966. Also that year the first Dean of the School was appointed, adding to the School's general atmosphere of an institution offering an advanced level of study.

The late 1960s was a time of important growth and continued innovation for the School. The School's accreditation became a major objective. Trustees and staff devoted a substantial amount of effort toward improving the School's facilities and curriculum to meet and maintain accreditation standards. In 1968 the newly-acquired Dupont Center facility began to be used by the School for additional studio space. That same year faculty and students created their own organizations to assert each' s right to participate in the decision-making process. In 1969 the Trustees formed a Committee on the Art School, independent of the Works of Art Committee which had handled School matters until that time. The Corcoran School of Art also introduced innovative special programs at this time, including a new Columbia, Maryland branch and an overseas summer program, the Corcoran School of Art Abroad.

Further structural changes came in the 1970s. The Corcoran continued to offer a four-year, full-time diploma program, but discontinued its two-year, full-time certificate program. The "Open Program" was continued for those students attending the School part-time. In addition, the Trustees and staff maintained the drive for accreditation. The School achieved its first accreditation success in 1971, when it was granted Division III membership in the National Association of Schools of Art (NASA). Two years later the School received Division I candidacy status in NASA and in 1976 was granted full membership in Division I. That same year the Corcoran's affiliation with George Washington University ended and the School instituted its own four-year BFA program. This program received District of Columbia approval in 1977 and again in 1980. The School sought to further expand its professional credentials through membership in the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. It was awarded candidacy status in MSACS in 1981.

The following section of this history was prepared in 2019 by George Washington University SCRC staff with the support of the Luce Foundation.

In 1985 The Corcoran School received accreditation as a four-year college from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

During the period of growth immediately following the appointment of David Levy and Samuel Hoi in 1991, the Corcoran School of Art established and supported several community outreach programs. The Visual Arts Community Outreach Program (VACOP) was established in 1992 to provide free art classes, mentoring, and exposure to art for children and teenagers in Washington’s inner-city communities. VACOP included Corcoran Art: New Visions at School (CANVAS), a middle school program.

As the Corcoran School grew, it faced increasingly cramped conditions within the Corcoran building itself. A space study commissioned in 1985 and completed in 1986 from architect Paul Spreiregen noted that the school needed more space in order to conduct normal activities required for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.Throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000, the school attempted to address the need for more classroom, office, and studio space by leasing and purchasing several properties. In 1986 the school leased the Jackson School building located at 3050 R St NW, as well as a building at 1680 Wisconsin Ave, referred to as the Georgetown Campus. Researchers should note that these purchases do not include the Corcoran School, also located in Georgetown but unaffiliated with the Corcoran School of Art and the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

By 1996, enrollment for the school had reached the capacity of the available facilities. The School had become an important source of revenue for the Corcoran as a whole, and the need for more space heavily influenced the decision in 1997 to use the land adjacent to the Gallery, at 17th and New York Avenue NW, to build an expansion to the Corcoran museum. The new expansion, announced to the public in 1999, was to be designed by Frank Gehry and would have created more facility space for both the school and the museum, to include studios, classrooms, offices, and a larger library.

In 1997, the Corcoran purchased the Fillmore School building, located at 1801 35th St. NW in Georgetown, in order to house the Corcoran School of Art during construction of the expansion. After extensive renovations, the former public school opened in 1999 and housed studios and classrooms. The Fillmore School location is also referred to as the “Georgetown Campus” in some documentation, along with the earlier locations on Wisconsin Ave. Additional space for the schools library was secured through a rental space at 1705 H St. NW.

In 1999, the Board of Trustees voted to change the name of the Corcoran’s art school from the “Corcoran School of Art” to the “Corcoran College of Art and Design.” This is often stylized as the Corcoran College of Art + Design.

In 2005, the Corcoran Board of Trustees announced that plans for the Gehry expansion would be shelved indefinitely due to the inability to fully raise the funds needed. Despite this, the Corcoran College continued to expand, receiving license to offer graduate degree programs during Christina DePaul’s 2002-2008 tenure as Dean of the college.

The Corcoran purchased the Randall School, located at 65 I St SW in 2006. The Randall School was to be used for additional studio spaces for the growing Corcoran College in place of the Gehry expansion. The building never opened to students, and was sold in 2010 to Don and Mera Rubell. The Corcoran also attempted to sell the Fillmore School in 2010, but plans between EastBanc and the Corcoran fell through, and the Fillmore continued to serve students as the Georgetown Campus until the building’s sale in 2015.

Following the sale of the Randall School, the Corcoran Gallery hired Lord Cultural Resources in 2011 to advise the board in finding solutions for the financially struggling museum. The Toronto-based strategy firm highlighted the continued growth of the College, and in 2012 the Board of Directors was presented with options derived from Lord’s consultation and internal studies. It was unanimously decided that the museum would begin shopping the historic Flagg building for sale with intentions of moving the museum and school out of D.C. These plans were abandoned the same year following protest from Corcoran College students and the D.C. community, but it had become clear that neither the Corcoran Gallery of Art or the Corcoran College of Art + Design could continue as independent entities.

Beginning in 2012, the Corcoran began looking for institutional partnerships and collaborations, culminating in a 2013 announcement that the Corcoran would be partnering with the University of Maryland to preserve the Corcoran and to extend the University of Maryland’s presence in D.C.

In 2014, The Corcoran unexpectedly announced that they would not be partnering with the University of Maryland, and instead would be dissolved and split between the National Gallery of Art and George Washington University. Under this agreement, the National Gallery of Art would be given the majority of the Corcoran’s collection, and George Washington University would take over the Corcoran College of Art + Design and the Corcoran’s Flagg building on 17th Street.

In August 2014 the Corcoran College of Art and Design was integrated into GW and is now known as Corcoran School of the Arts and Design within GW’s Columbian College of Arts and Sciences. Students and staff of the Corcoran College were also integrated into GW proper, making the Corcoran’s classes and facilities available to George Washington students and vice versa.

In 2015, Sanjit Sethi was appointed as the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s inaugural director.

Corcoran School of Art + Design timeline

Corcoran Gallery of Art officially opens to the public. Requests for permission to “copy” works of art begin.
Trustees adopt first set of regulations governing copyists.
E.F. Andrews, a local artist, begins free informal instruction to copyists.
W.W. Corcoran donates $2,123.27 for the establishment of “School of Design.”
Trustees give first “commendation” to a copyist for “praiseworth study of the important elementary branch of art in drawing from casts.” They recommend implementation of a Gold Medal Award, to be given to the most improved student each year.
First Gold Medal competition and Award.
E.F. Andrews appointed first salaried instructor.
W.W. Corcoran dies and bequeths $100,000 for the establishment of an art school.
Trustees resolve to build a separate art school facility adjoining the Gallery.
Corcoran School of Art officially opens with 40 students and 2 instructors. E.F. Andrews is appointed Director.
New site chosen for Corcoran Gallery and School at 17th and New York Ave.
New Corcoran opens. Washington Art League merges with Corcoran School of Art. Evening class for men begins.
Annual School exhibition held for the first time in the Atrium.
Trustees approve imposition of $10.00 student entrance fee, necessitated by increased costs of operation. In keeping with W.W. Corcoran’s desire for a free art school, no tuition is charged. School secretary appointed to supervise school matters, keep records, and maintain order in the classrooms.
Student entrance fee increased to $15.00. Student art supply shop opens.
Sculpture class introduced.
Hemicycle second floor gallery turned over to School by Board of Trustees.
Corcoran affiliates with BA/MFA program at George Washington University. Program maintained for 35 years.
Trustees reorganize financial structure of the School. They initiate a tuition charge calculated to meet operation costs
Introduction of two-year certificate and four-year diploma programs (part-time and full-time).
Implementation of structured 4-year diploma program. Certificate program no longer offered.
Corcoran School granted Division III membership in the National Association of Schools of Art (NASA).
Corcoran School granted Division I candidacy status in the National Association of Schools of Art (NASA).
Corcoran School granted Division I membership in the National Association of Schools of Art (NASA).
Corcoran BFA program receives District of Columbia approval.
Corcoran BFA program receives re-approval from the District of Columbia.
Corcoran School granted candidacy status in the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
Corcoran 4-year diploma program no longer offered. One year, part-time Fine Arts Certificate program begins.
Corcoran Alumni Club formed.
Corcoran School receives accreditation as a four-year college from the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
The Visual Arts Community Outreach Program (VACOP) is established to provide free art classes, mentoring, and exposure for children and teenagers in Washington, D.C. communities.
The Corcoran acquires the Fillmore School building, a public school located at 1801 35th St. NW, from the D.C. government for use as space for the School.
Corcoran School of Art’s name changed to the Corcoran College of Art and Design, often stylized as “Corcoran College of Art + Design.”
The Corcoran purchases the Randall School building from the D.C. government with plans to develop the building for additional school facilities and as a community art space.
The Corcoran sells the Randall School property to a partnership of the D.C. development firm Telesis and art collectors Mera and Don Rubell’s CACG Holdings.
The Corcoran Gallery of Art dissolves. George Washington University acquires the Corcoran College of Art + Design and the Flagg building.

Deans and Principals of the Corcoran School of Art + Design timeline

Eliphalet Frazer Andrews
E.C. Messer
Edmund C. Tarbell
Richard Meryman
Richard Lahey
John Ruddley
Alexander Russo (Chairman, Faculty)
1966-January 1970
Eugene Myers
February 1970-May 1977
Roy Slade
June 1977-May 1980
Peter Thomas
June 1980-June 1981
Sarah Yerkes (Acting Dean)
July 1981-July 1987
William O. Barrett
March 1988-July 1990
Bruce H. Yenawine
March 1991-June 1991
David Levy (Acting Dean)
June 1991-2000
Samuel Chuen-Tsung Hoi
Christina DePaul
August 2008-2010/11
Kirk E. Pillow (Provost, Dean, and Interim President)
Catherine Armour (Provost); Fred Bollerer (President, Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art + Design)
April 2013-September 2014
Peggy Loar (Interim Director and President of the Corcoran Gallery and College)
January 2014-June 2014
William Richardson (Interim Provost)
October 2015-July 2019
Sanjit Sethi (Inaugural Director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at the George Washington University)


307.5 Linear Feet (205 record center cartons)

Language of Materials



The Corcoran Gallery of Art Trustees first discussed the establishment of a "School of Design and Instruction" in 1873. The Corcoran School of Art Records trace the formation, administration, functions, activities, and philosophy of the School. The records chronicle the numerous changes and improvements which occurred throughout the School's past, with the bulk of the material dating from and focusing on the School after 1967. Significant material types include advertisements, applications, brochures, catalogs, class schedules and timetables, correspondence, course descriptions, meeting minutes, memoranda, reports, student data cards, and syllabi. The records date from approximately 1878 to 2014.


Arranged into 18 series: 1 Dean's records [legacy series]; 11 Dean's records; 2 Administrative records [legacy series]; 12 Administrative records; 3 Art School committee records [legacy series]; 13 Art School Committee; 4 Student records [legacy series]; 14 Student records; 5 Financial records [legacy series]; 15 Financial records; 6 Andrews Memorial Association records; 7 Corcoran Alumni Club records; 16 Alumni; 8 Faculty association records; 9 School publications; 10 School ephemera; 17 Student services; and 18 Student work.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site, and will require additional retrieval time. Please contact the Special Collections Research Center for more information.

Custodial History

The Corcoran School of Art records were transferred to the Corcoran Archives from the School office and various gallery and school storage areas from 1980 to 2014.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Corcoran Institution Board of Trustees donated these records to The George Washington University in 2016.

Separated Materials

During initial processing at the Corcoran Archives, some materials were removed and placed in more appropriate locations, including: news clippings - now located in the school history clippings file; photographs - placed with the photographic records; posters - placed with the av. poster collection; press releases - now located in the press release files; advertising records (pre-1969) - placed with the extension services records; and a student research paper - deposited in the school library.

Processing Information

Series 1-10 were processed by Corcoran Archivist K. Robinson in June 1983. Series 11-18 were processed in 2019 during the Luce grant project for the Corcoran Archives. Series numbering and titles from 1983 were retained, and the label “[legacy series]” indicates an original series that now has a corresponding later series with the same title. For ease of browsing, corresponding legacy and new series have been re-ordered to be adjacent in the collection display.

Guide to the Corcoran Gallery of Art and Corcoran College of Art + Design, Corcoran School of Art + Design records, circa 1908-2012
University Archives, Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University Repository

2130 H Street NW
Washington 20052 United States of America