New Opportunities for the AU Museum

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The AU Museum is making news. The recent Corcoran Legacy Collection gift—9,000 artworks valued at more than $31 million—marks an exciting new chapter for the museum. This extraordinary donation more than doubles the size of the permanent collection and raises the national profile of the largest university affiliated museum in the region.

The Corcoran Gallery of Art, one of the nation’s first private museums and a Washington, D.C., institution, closed in 2014. The Corcoran distributed its collection among the National Gallery of Art and others. The AU Museum received one of the most significant shares.

AU Museum

The gift to AU includes work by the 16th-century artist Titian, the photography of Ansel Adams, and the art of 20th-century masters Helen Frankenthaler and Roy Lichtenstein. The collection features Washington art, including members of the famed Washington Color School and historical pieces that show the influence of Washington art through time. The addition of Washington-themed work was deliberate, to augment the museum’s current holdings and build on the strength of the museum’s esteemed Alper Initiative for Washington Art that is dedicated to preserving, presenting, and creating the art history of Washington.

“The American University Museum is excited about the opportunities to share this rich collection with our students, scholars, the Washington community, and beyond,” said Jack Rasmussen, director and curator of the AU Museum (and four-time alumnus of AU’s College of Arts and Sciences).

AU Museum

“This collection will enhance the museum’s long-standing commitment to exhibiting works by Washington, national, and international artists who hail from diverse backgrounds and encompass many artistic styles and ranges.”

Students have extraordinary new learning opportunities thanks to the Corcoran gift. In September 2019, graduate students in art history, arts management, and studio art curated the playful and provocative exhibit Moves Like Walter: New Curators Open the Corcoran Legacy Collection. The Washington Post praised the exhibit as “a coming-out party for the dormant (Corcoran) collection.”

The 14-year-old AU Museum is the centerpiece of the multidisciplinary Katzen Arts Center. The museum offers more than 25 exhibitions annually, occasions to meet artists, Kids@Katzen hands-on experiences, and opportunities to learn through public programs. Patrons can practice yoga in the galleries or appreciate “ambulatory concerts” that encourage visitors to wander the exhibits while enjoying the music of the museum’s resident ensemble INTERFERENCE/Intermedia.

Vast, new opportunities are ahead for the museum. AU’s new strategic plan, Changemakers for a Changing World, identifies art leadership as one of the key ways the university can deepen its relationships in Washington to be “a part of, and not apart from,” the D.C. community.

Help Write the Next Chapter at AU

Gifts from friends like you play an important role in ensuring AU can meet the needs of our students. Whether its new artwork for the AU Museum or a gift to put an AU education within reach of students, your support matters. Learn more about ways you can give by contacting Seth D. Speyer at or 202-885-3411.

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