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More than 150 Corcoran employees face layoffs as mergers loom

Monday - 7/14/2014, 12:46pm  ET

About a third of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and College of Art and Design’s 465 employees are slated be laid off as soon as mid-August as the longstanding art institutions prepare to merge with the National Gallery of Art and the George Washington University.

The Corcoran issued a layoff notice to all of its employees last month, but the Corcoran expects about a third of them will actually be laid off as of Aug. 16, which is the effective date affiliated with the notice.

The institution estimates that about a third of its employees have already gotten new jobs and about a third will be transferred to positions at the new partner organizations. The gallery’s curatorial department, for example, will transfer to the National Gallery of Art, while all full-time faculty will transfer to GWU. The majority of the layoffs will be part-time employees, according to a spokeswoman.

The Corcoran finalized its merger agreement in May, but the closing is contingent on a court proceeding known as a cy-prés process that grants court approval for a charitable group to change its mission “because the current means of implementing the mission have become impossible or impracticable.”

The agreement would transfer Corcoran’s historic Beaux Arts building at 17th Street and New York Avenue NW and its art and design college to GWU, with control of its art collection mostly going to the National Gallery of Art.

The organization is making an effort to keep as much of its artwork in the D.C. region as possible. In legal documents filed last month, the Corcoran and the National Gallery said the latter will choose what it wants to keep out of the collection it received. After that, the remaining works will be offered to D.C. museums and other public institutions. The next round will be offered to other institutions within a 50-mile radius, according to this Washington Post report.

Corcoran is hoping to wrap up the cy-prés court proceeding — allowing it to close on its deal with the merger partners — in time for the beginning of the next academic year.

Corcoran has been preparing for the transition with its partners in a preliminary way until there is a ruling on the petition, the Corcoran spokeswoman said.

Corcoran advocates are using that proceeding to fight the merger, however. Save the Corcoran filed a motion in D.C. Superior Court July 2 to stop the merger of the gallery and dissolution of the Corcoran institution as it exists today.

The organization is due in court Friday for a hearing on its cy-prés petition; a hearing on Save the Corcoran’s motion to intervene is scheduled for the same day. The Corcoran believes the court will rule promptly, according to Charles Patrizia, Corcoran's attorney.

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