- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

A deal to save the financially troubled Millennium Art Center has reached a standstill, with center administrators accusing civic leaders and one of country's most prestigious art galleries of subterfuge.
William Wooby, the center's founder and director, said the Corcoran Gallery of Art has rejected a contract, and that politicians and Corcoran administrators are "trying to work behind our backs to get hold of the property."
Corcoran director David Levy, however, said the museum has made an offer but that Mr. Wooby is not interested in it.
"We support his vision for the building, and it's important for these artists to stay there," Mr. Levy said. "We'd fix up the building, and they would have it in perpetuity. We figure that right now, with his space, [Mr. Wooby] could be renting to even more artists. "
The Corcoran has negotiated for about two years to take over the lease of the District-owned Randall School building in Southwest and become an affiliate of the Millennium Art Center (MAC), a national workshop and exhibition facility.
Corcoran administrators also planned to spend about $23 million to renovate the building.
Mr. Levy also said the art center violates the law by not having insurance or a certificate of occupancy for the building.
"MAC has to have the insurance to have the artists," he said. "It's part of the lease agreement with the city. It [also] would have trouble collecting for damages from an insurance company because of the hazardous materials scattered throughout the building."
Meanwhile, artists and organizations that lease space in the building, including the Art Enables group, which helps the learning disabled, have formed an alliance called MacTenants to monitor the situation and negotiate with the city.
"We're concerned about a big organization like the Corcoran coming in and taking over," said Richard Dana, an artist and MacTenants spokesman.
"MacTenants support [Mr. Woobys] vision of an independent center," he said.
"We're afraid the Corcoran would bring in their own artists and we would lose our studios."
Mr. Levy said the District recently served the center with an eviction notice for delinquent rent and utilities of roughly $750,000.
He also said the District gave the center a written notice in late January stating that it would sue for possession Feb. 21 unless MAC paid its bills.
Tim Dimond, director of the City's Office of Property Management, was not available to say whether such action was taken.
Norman Sine, a lawyer at the firm Arnold and Porter, which represents the center, is reported to have a 30-day restraining order to keep open the building at 65 I St. SW.
He could not be reached yesterday for comment.
Mr. Wooby acknowledged that the center owes about $400,000 in rent and $200,000 for utilities but that he could not pay because the homeless shelter that occupies a third of the building owes about $900,000 in rent.
"Most of the code violations are in the shelter," he said.
"They wouldn't let the fire inspectors in when they came last September."

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