A Post-Election Message from Corcoran School Director Sanjit Sethi

November 16, 2016

A week ago many of us were shocked by the outcome of the presidential election. Specifically the election of an individual who is seen by many to be a misogynist, a racist, a homophobe and a xenophobe. Since that time we have already witnessed an uptick in hateful speech in our country’s schools, streets and places of common gathering. Confronted by this reality we need to ask ourselves: What do we do? What does the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design stand for? And what is at the heart of our core DNA?

In founding the Corcoran, William Wilson Corcoran saw it as a place “dedicated to art and used solely for the purpose of encouraging the American genius.” The preservation of American genius is an active process, not a passive one. It requires care, cultivation, the celebration of creativity, scholarship and diverse points of view. The Corcoran has an obligation to defend this idea of American geniusall of it. American genius is not homogenous. It is a complex genius made up of many parts and many voices. Gay, straight, male, female, transgendered, legal, undocumented, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, black, white, brownwe must celebrate and defend all creative genius, period. Our community has a responsibility to create a safe space for our students, faculty, staff and alumni of artists and designers, performers and scholars and as importantly to promote and support this genius and confront inequity in the Washington, D.C., community and beyond.  

I categorically reject a retreat from addressing the complex social issues we are confrontingwe cannot and will not be an institution that myopically plunges ahead no matter what the prevailing political winds are.  I hope you all continue to be involved in the issues that matter most to you and share your ideas on how we as a community can address the challenges ahead.

I invite you to join Corcoran faculty and staff for a community meeting next Monday, Nov. 21 at 3:30 p.m. in the Flagg Building Atrium to talk about what we can do together and how we move forward as a community.

The Sufist poet Jalaluddin Rumi once said, “New organs of perception come about due to necessity … therefore in order to increase your perception you must increase your necessity.” If we are waiting for a time to act we must wait no longer. Our necessity has unequivocally increased and our limits are being tested. We must move forward and gather our creative strengths to support each other, focus on important issues ahead, and drive the change we want to see around us. I hope you join me on Monday, Nov. 21.