Students Celebrate Addition of 20th Century Art to White House Collection

November 18, 2016

Corcoran students were among those who honored the White House Historical Association last month for its achievements in turning the White House’s Old Family Dining Room into the first room in “The People’s House” devoted entirely to 20th century art.  

“The President and I, we are true art lovers,” First Lady Michelle Obama said while addressing attendees at the October 14 event. “We don’t know as much as some of our friends do, but we hope when we get out of here we’ll learn a little bit more. But we think that all of our country’s great artists have a place within these walls.”

The day included a panel discussion with White House curators, including Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, and a member of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.

It was Golden who chose to include a piece by Alma Thomas, the first African American woman to be included in the White House Collection. Curators also added works by Mark Rothko, Edward Hopper, Robert Rauschenberg and Sam Francis.

“It was a really historical time to be there,” said Corcoran Fine Art senior Khadijah Wilson, who attended the event. “I didn’t have prior knowledge that they were trying to move more contemporary works inside the White House, so it was not only nice to be able to see up and close and personal all of the historical portraitures of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy, but to be in that place and see Rauschenberg and artists that you study and that you are familiar with.”

Wilson said it was also interesting to see how the White House curators incorporated contemporary works into rooms that are        Alma Thomas, Resurrection (1966), courtesy of White House Historical Association
not short on decoration. “It was nice because it also touched on interior design,” Wilson said. “It was amazing all around."