The Corcoran Gallery in DC, MOCA in Los Angeles: two sides of a similar coin
Arts Journal blog Real Clear Arts, has two good posts that are much shorter than anything I would write, "New Way-Out Idea To Save LA-MOCA," and "Corcoran Catch-Up: Lesser Of Two Evils Or A Third Choice?." (The piece on MOCA also suggests that the Hirshorn's plans to build a plastic bubble on top and become a cultural think tank are likely going nowhere, but that's fruit for another post.)
With both she's suggests that at least one additional choice should be explored. For MOCA, rather than jumping on board with LACMA, she says they need a great director, who can things back on track, that former art dealer Jeffrey Deitsch is out of his depth. For the Corcoran, she says that the earlier course wasn't a good choice, that Wayne Reynolds might not be the savior that various people and the Post editorial board believe, and that they need another choice (a great director and a good board).
Although for me, I think the Corcoran should be refocused as the city's art museum. The city doesn't have one. The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts would be a good model.
For me, it comes down to planning.
1. Cities need to have wide-ranging cultural plans.
2. With subplans or elements for the various artistic disciplines and institutions.
3. Planners typically are uncomfortable making recommendations for agencies above them, or with regard to more "private" organizations, but I think that in terms of scenario planning, being prepared, and best representing the ideals for each discipline, such guidance should be available.
For example, in DC, without such a plan, the city doesn't have much of a role in the discussions about the Corcoran's future. The Post and others are hot for the money and ideas of Wayne Reynolds, and while Ms. Dobrynski points out he is mostly interested in selling the collection off, at least the terms of the discussion would be broadened, but they are still not broad enough.
Similarly, without such a plan for the city and county, dealing with MOCA is a problem for Los Angeles. A director without experience running a museum was a bad idea. Going in with Eli Broad when he didn't step up and offer enough money to get the museum on an even keel was a bad choice too. So now they are in a similar bind to where they were years ago when Eli Broad stepped in and prevented them from hooking up with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) back then.
Or communities without wide ranging parks plans are left without much recourse, when state parks agencies close "local" parks that also served local residents.
4. And museums need strong directors, good boards, money and endowments.
And plans need to be direct about that. MOCA's board has blown up with the involvement of Eli Broad. Clearly, the Corcoran has been flailing for a long time as well.
5. And speaking of funding, regional funding mechanisms are the best course and should be discussed in the plan. Models include Allegheny County Pennsylvania's Regional Asset District, the recent referendum for the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Cuyahoga County Ohio cancer tax for arts (I don't agree with the Cleveland initiative, I think the Allegheny County model is the best, which funds multiple institutions, not just one).
Also see the past blog entries:
- "Cultural resources planning in DC: In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king."
- "Arts, artistic production, and culture districts revisited"
- "Art is for everyone property tax funding campaign: Detroit Institute of Art"