Arts Desk

Kristin Guiter Resigns From the Corcoran

Kristin Guiter, the vice president for communications and marketing at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, has resigned, she says. The move comes at the end of a week that began with news that her museum was contemplating a move from its 115-year-old home at 17th Street and New York Avenue NW.

Guiter's career at the Corcoran has been bracketed by two of the more contentious moments in the museum's history. She began working in the museum's press office in late 2006, after the institution failed to build a Frank Gehry addition. That year saw Paul Greenhalgh begin his brief tenure as director by letting go three curators and two museum department heads. The present crisis is a byproduct of the Corcoran's significant financial challenges: It currently faces a projected $7.2 million budget deficit.

In between a rock and a hard place, however, Guiter has nevertheless had a visible impact on the culture of the museum. She is one of the longest-serving employees in an organization that has seen high turnover under the administrations of Greenhalgh and the current director, Fred Bollerer. Along with fellow Corcoran communications staffers Rachel Cothran and Melanie Kimmelman, Guiter has served as a fashionable public face for the museum. Over the last few years, the Corcoran has increasingly courted the coveted young-single-professionals cohort, through its Corcoran Contemporaries and 1869 Society membership organizations as well as its "Now" and "Next" contemporary art programs. Of those four initiatives, all but the 1869 Society were Guiter's projects.

Guiter has not announced her immediate plans. Today is her last day in the office.

Working on little sleep, Guiter appeared last night at Civilian Art Projects for a community meeting, where 45 or so Corcoran supporters met to brainstorm ways to "save the Corcoran." Guiter said she was there to speak on behalf of the museum, and that she "loves, loves, loves the Corcoran."

That meeting hit some familiar notes. Tom Pullin, a Corcoran senior studying fine-art photography, suggested an ironic bake sale, or a car wash. (Art-school kids can't turn it off.) Muriel Hasbun, chair of the photography department, said that Corcoran College of Art+Design staff and faculty have been asked to work the phones to assure incoming Corcoran freshmen that the situation is OK. Hasbun solicited the Corcoran staffers, alumni, and supporters in the room for help with the effort. (Corcoran alum and master's student Jacqueline Ionita, who is the gallery director at Hamiltonian Gallery, asked, "But what is our message?")

One thing the group largely agreed on: The group needed more information from the Corcoran board and leadership. But it was Roberta Faul-Zeitler, a former Corcoran press director, and not Guiter, who did most of the talking last night. Guiter did provide the single concrete development to flow from the meeting: Starting next week, the Corcoran will hold public meetings about these developments. Guiter, however, won't be participating in them.

Photo by John Edmunds

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  • Amy Braden

    I second Ionita's question....What will the college staff and faculty be telling incoming freshman? What are they assuring them? I had a fantastic experience there myself, but my brother just received his acceptance letter for the fall and I'm not sure I can recommend that he attend. I have yet to see anything from the College on this and it seems to be an important question to answer.

  • Catherine

    Hi Amy --

    Thank you for posting a very important question about the College. We released a statement from our Provost on Tuesday afternoon, directly responding to the news released about the Corcoran. If your brother did not receive our email communication, please feel free to have him contact the Office of Admissions and we will be happy to forward him the message again.

  • Sarah

    Congratulations to Guiter for moving on, but this article grossly overstates some of her contributions.

    To say that the projects mentioned above are "Guiter's" is offensive and untrue. While she and her team played a supporting role in launching these projects, these projects were by no means a product of her doing. She acted in the capacity of a communications professional: promoting the through PR efforts, printed materials, and web site content.

    What a slap in the face to those who were truly at the helm of these exciting and innovative projects. The Now exhibition series was developed and managed by the curators of contemporary art. Next was created and nurtured by a large team of college staff including Andy Grundberg, the college exhibitions and design teams, the department chairs...not to mention the senior students. The Contemporaries, along with the other membership groups, were cultivated by the membership team and with aid from the steering committees. These efforts were supported by many other departments, and to suggest that communications (and Guiter in particular) played a larger role than public education, special events, exhibitions, design, student affairs, development, among others, is neglectful. And the "stylish public face?" The Corcoran is a hotbed for creative and inspired style. Guiter just happens to be the the only one shameless enough to throw herself in front of every camera that came through the door.

    Is Guiter the 'source' who helped Capps scoop the Post last week about the Corcoran's potential sale? I do not see any other way that such a gratuitous, inaccurate article could have been published under Capps' byline.

  • Kriston Capps

    Sarah: For certain, Guiter did not create these initiatives alone and does not claim credit for them.

    My point in mentioning them was not to explain how the Corcoran organizes a public campaign—as you have done here in comments—but to list the public initiatives that she spearheaded, in her capacity as publicity director. I don't think that by writing about her contributions that I have led the reader to believe that she launched these campaigns with no help whatsoever. Nowhere do I say or imply that communications plays "a larger role than public education, special events, exhibitions, design, student affairs, development," etc.

    In my experience, PR officials rarely want to appear in any story, especially one that takes place in the middle of a controversy. But I would report on any vice-president leaving any institution I cover. I've written about many curators, dealers, artists, and executives and their various moves in D.C., so I don't consider it a major departure for my byline.

    As for your personal remarks about Guiter, that sounds like a grudge and not something I need to address.

    Finally, I won't comment on my sources as they have asked to remain anonymous.

  • http://www.djerassi.org Margot H Knight

    Stories like this hurt my heart. . . Sounds like a board in the desperate death-throe straits. Rough road for ANY communications professional. Walking the line between honest and transparent communications with people who care about the museum and the press while allowing the board to brainstorm ideas to stop the hemorrhaging of red ink is not easy. A fellow journalist opined that the board might be playing games to garner support. I don’t think it’s INTENTIONAL gamesmanship. . . just a case of a board and leadership who see few options . It is a true donor/investor friend who’s willing to cover deficits of this size. And getting new investments when it looks as if the ship is sinking is nearly impossible. It won't be long before the adjectives "beleaguered" "troubled" and "firestorm of controversy" get thrown around by the press. And those adjectives have a LONG reputational shelf-life.

  • Corcoran Alum

    I cannot help but agree with the comments put forth by City Paper reader “Sarah.” When I first read the Capps story on Guiter, I had many questions and shared much of the same opinion.

    I was mostly struck by the tone of the Capps’ piece. To my recollection, Capps has had a strong voice over the years in his criticism of the Corcoran. Over the past seven days, other news organizations have commented on their difficulty in working with the communications and marketing department, noting in particular on the department’s inability to respond to media inquiries. It therefore struck me as quite odd that the Capps piece came out shortly after his original exposé and that it gave such a glowing review of the former employee. Is it not in times of trouble like this that individuals step up their involvement, in particular the communications team? Was this not another opportunity for Capps to build upon his discussion of Corcoran’s leadership, and delve deeper into why this individual resigned during such time of crisis? I do not see the article as a departure from Capps’ byline. I do however see this as a missed opportunity for Capps to investigate why the individual resigned, as opposed using the piece to celebrate their achievements.

    I could be wrong here, but I recall the original photo caption as “Photo provided by Kristen Guiter” which I believe has since been changed to “Photo by John Edmunds”. Even the photo caption, upon my first read of the article, suggested a certain alliance. I further put forth the question, should on-line publications be allowed to change content after it is posted without letting the readers know?

    In support of reader Sarah’s comments, I feel “Of those four initiatives, all but the 1869 Society were Guiter's projects”, intended or not, reads to a regular reader like myself as initiatives conceived and managed by Guiter. While I thank both Sarah and Mr. Capps for clarifying this, it too only supports my questioning of Capps intent.

    In conclusion, I feel I side even more with the remarks marks by your reader in the previous post. And I still question the intent and tone of this article.

  • Kriston Capps

    Corcoran Alum: Thanks your close reading.

    I pulled a photo from Guiter's Facebook page to run with the story. My editor added a caption, "courtesy of Kristin Guiter," but I changed the caption shortly after to credit the photographer. Guiter subsequently asked me to remove the photo, and I have not. The only change to the story was the change to the photo caption.

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