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Corcoran Communications Skipper Overboard: Guiter Jumps Ship

David Levy, director of the Corcoran from 1991-2005

At least one staffer of the foundering Corcoran Gallery has bailed out.

I’ve been away on a work-ation the past four days, so I’m belatedly reporting on the missive that arrived in my inbox on Friday morning—a farewell address from Kristin Guiter, the Corcoran’s vice president for communications and marketing, now leaving for those proverbial “other opportunities.” Her announcement came directly after her attendance on Thursday evening at a meeting called by Save the Corcoran proponents. That meeting was reported by the Washington Post.

The newspaper’s David Montgomery wrote:

Kristin Guiter…attended the meeting as a representative of the leadership.

have heard the public outcry, and I think everyone should stay tuned,”
Guiter said. She said Corcoran management would be willing to meet some
Save the Corcoran members.

Guiter apparently knew full well when she addressed that meeting that the very next day would be her last at the museum. Here’s what hit my inbox at 10:21 a.m. on Friday:

Some of you may already know, but I write today to tell you that recently I made
the decision to move on from the Corcoran in order to explore other opportunities, as
I continue on my professional path. And, at that time, I agreed to stay through an
important board meeting this week to help steer the communications efforts, out of
dedication to the Corcoran. While I will transition with my team and colleagues over
the next week, today will be my final full day in the office.

I will always treasure the time I’ve spent in this historic institution….For more than five years, I have been one of the Corcoran’s biggest champions and
that will not change. My loyalty will always lie with the Corcoran, and I wish my
favorite D.C. institution a very bright future…

…but not with Kristin.

As you may remember, something very similar happened at the endangered (now downsized and recovering) American Folk Art Museum, when the museum’s press spokesperson, Susan Flamm, and its director, Maria Ann Conelli, left their posts during the dark days of AFAM’s dire difficulties.

Also on Friday, the Washington Post published a must-read opinion piece, The Corcoran at a Crossroads, by David Levy, who directed the Corcoran from 1991 to 2005 (and was its last director to be a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors). Levy strongly argued against moving the museum from Washington, and also sucker-punched the on-the-ropes museum with an I-told-you-so regarding his aborted plan to build a Frank Gehry-designed addition to the Corcoran. Calling the abandonment of that project ” a major mistake,” he asserted that this “set the stage for the current crisis.”

Maybe so; maybe not. But whatever the merits of the Gehry gambit, Levy’s latest recommendation is worth taking seriously—that the Corcoran distinguish itself from the free-admission Smithsonian institutions by becoming “Washington’s museum, serving this unique metropolitan region whose
residents have the highest income and educational levels in the United
States, while creatively reaching out to its inner-city neighborhoods.”

If the Corcoran is going to rebrand itself, that sounds like a sound way to do it. Meanwhile, there’s an intriguing Diebenkorn show in its future.

an ArtsJournal blog