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Funkstown – Don’t Miss GWU's NEXT Exhibition at the Corcoran!

Updated: May 12

By Frank Leone

The George Washington University Corcoran School of the Arts & Design students are displaying 80 thesis projects – photos, collages, videos, computer programs, and much more – in the Flagg Building (500 17th St., formerly the Corcoran Gallery) at the NEXT exhibition. Don’t delay you visit – this exciting exhibition is open Wednesday to Sunday, 1- 5 pm until May 16, and then again during graduation weekend, May 17 - 18. (Don’t let the GWU Campus Advisory deter you – the exhibit is open to the public.) Of special interest are a new photo journalist’s video about our own Mike Evans and his connections with neighborhood birds. GWU Museum Studies students also mounted a compelling exhibit on D.C. Statehood. Finally, the exhibition takes place at Foggy Bottom’s historic Flagg Building, which is always worth a visit.

The GWU NEXT Exhibition takes over the Corcoran (F. Leone, May 2024)

Residents and visitors to Foggy Bottom may be familiar with composer Mike Evans who regularly feeds birds, including pigeons at the park overlooking the Potomac Freeway. GWU New Photo Journalism graduate student Natalia Ventura created a video (“Ripple effect”) and digital ink print display that narrates Mike’s connections to city wildlife in the Foggy Bottom area. It is part of Ventura’s Unconditional Project which “explores human-animal interactions and the mental, social, and emotional benefits some gain from them.”

Still in the Fight: The DC Statehood Movement opening panel (F. Leone, May 2024)

PHOTO: Still in the Fight: The DC Statehood Movement opening panel (F. Leone, May 2024)

The “Still in the Fight: The DC Statehood Movement” exhibit features mounted photos, copies of important documents, and interactive exhibits to explain the history of D.C.’s. disenfranchisement and the evolution of current statehood arguments. As described by its designers, the exhibit’s voice is “bold, punchy, and fiercely fighting for DC Statehood.”

One of the interactive exhibits allows visitors to design their own new 51-state flag. It’s not hard to do. (F. Leone, May 2024, design by Edward C. Martin)

The NEXT exhibition opens Foggy Bottom’s Beaux Arts Flagg Building to the public. The building was designed by Earnest Flagg for D.C. banker, art collector and philanthropist William Wilson Corcoran in 1897 to house Corcoran’s American art collection. The building is a national historic site and its interiors have a rare DC landmark designation.

Corcoran originally housed his art collection in what is now the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (1661 Penn. Ave.). This National Historic Landmark was designed by architect James Renwick Jr. in 1858 and was the first building in the United States built specifically to be an art museum. Confederate sympathizer Corcoran spent the Civil War in England and the U.S. Army occupied the building. The gallery opened to the public in 1874 with its arts school opening in 1878.

One of the pair of bronze lions that still reside on the 17th St. entrance. (F. Leone, Mar. 2021). They are casts of the marble lions on the monument to Pope Clement XIII, which the neoclassical sculptor Antonio Canova (1757 -1822) carved for St. Peter's in Rome. They were bought in 1888 at auction from the estate of Ben Holladay, the founder of the Pony Express.

By 1897, the Corcoran collection outgrew the space of its original building and the Flagg Building opened. Initially, the Gallery focused on traditional American art, but it developed a strong modernist collection and supported the Washington Color School and other local artists. Due to economic problems, the Gallery closed in 2014. GWU took over its building and art school and the 20,000 works in its collection were distributed primarily to the National Gallery of Art. Controversy continues regarding whether the Flagg Building will host some of its original art, but for the moment you can still see the building during the NEXT exhibition.

SourcesGWU Next Exhibition; GWU Corcoran History; Brigette Kamsler (GWU Archivist) and Steven Wyman (historian/GW alumnus), GW History: The 150-Year Cross-Pollination of the Corcoran Gallery of Art & The George Washington University, December 16, 2020; Paul Richard, These Bronze Lions Guard ..., Washington Post, Sept. 18, 2003; Foggy Bottom History Project.



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