The Corcoran’s new Consulting Director Peggy Loar’s first few days on the job were packed—meetings with Trustees, faculty, staff, and students, a tour with chief curator Philip Brookman, and interviews with the press. Here, she discusses her excitement about the Corcoran staff, partnering with the University of Maryland and addressing the challenges ahead. For a letter from Peggy and a short bio, click here.
What’s been the biggest surprise about your first few days on the job?
I have encountered an amazingly talented and now optimistic Corcoran staff who are eager for creative investigation and action as to how we engage with the expertise and services available to us from the University of Maryland. This wasn’t so much a surprise as it was a validation of purpose on behalf of an institution they are seriously committed to.
You are known in the museum world for working on “start-ups”—the National Museum of Qatar, Wolfsonian Museum and Research Center, and COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts. How does your experience launching new museums help you to make decisions about an institution with a long history?
There is an entrepreneurial side to starting up a new museum. Each of my experiences has required a love of invention and exploration, an insistence on quality, and a determination to find the right niche and focus—as well as engagement with top talent. These same elements, combined with a great respect for the institution and its history, will be required to enhance and morph the amazing Corcoran. Bringing its history together with a modern approach is not only doable—it’s very exciting.
What would you say to a student who is worried that the University of Maryland is “taking over” the Corcoran?
The Board and I have heard the voices of our students and will continue to listen to their concerns and ideas. Almost all have made it clear that the intimacy of the Corcoran experience helps nurture their creativity. They don’t want to lose that. At the same time, some faculty have expressed the desire for an adjunct appointment with the University. We want to explore and offer options so that students might receive either a solo Corcoran degree or a combined degree with the University of Maryland. Faculty might have a choice between remaining only Corcoran based or taking a joint appointment.
What about the potential partnership with the University of Maryland is most exciting for you?
Together we can expand learning opportunities. Enhancing certain subjects by combining them with others could be really cool. For example, bringing Corcoran design students together with Maryland engineering students could result in new gadgets and products—stretching “design think” into “design practice” and even income! Or consider the potential of exhibitions co-organized by Corcoran curators and Maryland art historians. Equally exciting are the opportunities for art students to have access to the technology labs and faculty expertise at the University as they explore all manner of new media in relation to their studies and work.
If you were going to enroll in the Corcoran as a student, what would you study?
I would have to select something I haven’t done before. Probably both photojournalism—which fascinates me both artistically and ethically—and digital media design—because it’s the future.
Is it true you were a bowling champ in Cincinnati, Ohio?
Yes, I was an Ohio state bowling champion at age 14. I can’t believe I just admitted that, and no, we’re not putting a bowling alley in the Corcoran!