The day in 2014 that GW and the National Gallery of Art announced a partnership with the Corcoran is one that Steve Wyman, BA ’85, says he will always remember. “I immediately knew it was a game changer for GW. [As a result of the merger], GW would have the nation’s only university school of fine arts housed in an iconic building along with a national art museum,” he recalls.
Three years later, the Corcoran School of Arts and Design is fully integrated into the university, with students attending classes in the historic Flagg Building—even as it undergoes extensive renovations—and earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in arts and fine arts disciplines.
Later this month, a project inspired by the merger and curated by Steve will open in Freeport, Maine, in renowned furniture maker Thos. Moser’s flagship showroom and gallery. “Dedicated to Art: Celebrating Corcoran and George Washington University Artists in Maine” opens June 22 at Thos. Moser, 149 Main Street, Freeport. A total of 27 artists will be featured during the exhibit, all of whom are former students or teachers at the Corcoran School of Art and/or GW and whose art reflects Maine’s landscapes and natural beauty. GW alumni are also invited to attend the opening reception on Thursday, June 22, 2017, 6-8 p.m.
“The works of major artists such as Bernard Langlais and Joyce Tenneson, who attended the Corcoran and GW respectively, will be featured, as well as many established artists who have connections to both schools,” Steve says.
A native of the Pine Tree State whose self-proclaimed passions are design and art, Steve credits the “broad exposure I received to a lot of different fields of study” at GW for expanding his worldview in general and fostering his love of art in particular. When he returned to Maine after graduation and a stint as a Washington Post staff writer, it was his passion for artistic creation—in the form of furniture making—that ultimately led to his current position with Thos. Moser where, among other responsibilities, he oversees the company’s Freeport showroom.
“We have curated and exhibited about 75 shows over the past 18 years,” he says, but the Corcoran-GW show “is on another level, given the number of works from major artists who are producing amazing work in a range of styles.” The sweep of art history in America will be represented in the show, he says, from the Hudson River School, realism and impressionism to early modernism and more contemporary styles.
Steve acknowledges that the star of the show is Maine—the breathtaking vistas, craggy seascapes, and seasonal contrasts that served as inspiration for the participating artists. But he says it’s the GW-Corcoran connection and the longtime, symbiotic relationship between the two institutions that make the show unique. “Corcoran and GW alumni should see this art show because it is the first, to my knowledge, that illustrates the cross-pollination of GW and the Corcoran,” he says.
Indeed, the connection dates to the late 19th century, when William Wilson Corcoran founded a museum to celebrate art—while at the same time serving as president of the board of trustees of Columbian College, renowned today as GW’s Columbian College. James Clarke Welling, then president of GW, served as president of the Corcoran’s board, presiding at the laying of the cornerstone for the Flagg Building when construction began in 1894. Both institutions shared a vision for a school of fine arts where students could learn painting, sculpture, and architecture; the school was established in the basement of the Corcoran Gallery of Art when it opened. The relationship continued into the 20th and 21st centuries, with GW students taking drawing classes at the Corcoran and Corcoran students taking classes at GW.
Steve says the show is celebrating the Corcoran-GW connection in a tangible way as well: 25 percent of sales will be shared between the Corcoran School of Arts and Design and GW’s Special Collections, enabling the university’s archivist to process more than 2,000 boxes of historic Corcoran records.
But that’s to come. For now, Steve and his staff are singularly focused on preparing the gallery and hanging the artwork in time for the show’s opening. “Unpacking the work as it arrives and examining it up close is always exciting, because cameras and computer monitors cannot replicate the richness and vibrancy of the real thing,” he says. “Anyone who loves art should come up to Maine and see this show.”
“Dedicated to Art: Celebrating Corcoran and George Washington University Artists in Maine” opens June 22, 2017, and runs through October 10, 2017, at the Thos. Moser Freeport Showroom, 149 Main Street, Freeport, Maine 04032. GW alumni are also encouraged to attend the opening reception from 6 to 8 p.m. For more information, email or call the showroom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 207-865-4519, or visit the website at www.thosmoser.com.