- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The Corcoran Museum of Art Board of Trustees will install Otto J. Ruesch as its new chairman at the end of this month.

Mr. Ruesch, a board member since 1994, helped raise more than $60 million for the institution during nearly 10 years. He replaces Ronald D. Abramson, who was elected in 1994 and served four consecutive terms, his fourth ending June 30.

Yesterday, Mr. Ruesch said the board has continually renewed itself to best serve visitors, and that remains a goal for him.

“We are here to serve the artists, but at the same time, we have to make sure that we include every single segment of the city,” the Chevy Chase resident said.

The Corcoran Gallery, located at New York Avenue and 17th Street NW, was founded in 1869 as Washington’s first art museum and is privately funded. Its collection includes historical and modern American art, as well as European painting, sculpture and decorative arts.

Mr. Ruesch believes it is important for the 134-year-old institution to become a spot to which visitors flock so its finances are strong enough to keep an ever-improving and growing collection.

Another initiative for Mr. Ruesch is completing the 140,000-square-foot Gehry Wing that will house classrooms, galleries, a restaurant, a shop and administrative offices. The gallery has raised $62 million, half of the money needed for the project

The museum offers annual individual memberships for $50, which provide year-round general admission, free or discounted admission to all ticketed exhibitions and several other benefits.

Other membership packages offer more privileges and are higher in price, with the highest costing $1,500.

The number of members of the Corcoran Gallery has tripled in the past five years, 3,000 objects have been added to its collection, and enrollment at the College of Art & Design has increased by 60 percent.

“I am extremely excited about the combination of the college of art and the museum,” Mr. Ruesch said.

Board members also are working to restore the original building to improve facilities for exhibition, conservation and storage.

The Zurich-born Mr. Ruesch said that despite the art museum being “so close to my heart,” it took awhile to decide whether to accept the chairmanship after being approached by the outgoing chairman a few months ago. One reason, he said, is because he is involved with a number of other nonprofits around the city and is president and board chairman of Ruesch International Inc., a financial-services corporation.

He also serves on the boards of the Kennedy Center International Committee on the Arts, the Swiss-American Cultural Exchange Council, and several other organizations.

Board members elected him as their new leader on May 19.

Colleagues say they are pleased that Mr. Ruesch is taking the reins of the museum’s board, as he is a generous philanthropist and talented executive.

“Not only does Mr. Ruesch bring talent and leadership skills to us, but his experience on our board assures a smooth transition so that the institution will continue to move forward and prosper,” Duane Beckhorn, chairman of the Corcoran Nominating Committee, said in a statement.

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