Handley’s Corcoran Gallery Connection: A WWII Story

On Thursday, July 13, 2023, the Handley 100th Anniversary celebration continued. As part of the Speaker/Program Series of the Handley 100th anniversary celebration, the community joined to learn more of this remarkable story and view the Wilkins Gallery featuring the painting replicas.

If you were unable to attended the event, enjoy watching below.

The presentation was given by Marisa Bourgoin, formerly a curator with the Corcoran Gallery, now with the Smithsonian Institute.

81 years ago, John Handley High School served as a safe house for more than 50 pieces of our nation’s most treasured art, at the time worth nearly $1.15 million — but only a handful of people knew that they were there.

During World War II, the Corcoran Gallery of Art desired to protect its most valuable artwork from potential bombing raids on Washington D.C. The secret concrete vault beneath Handley became the collection’s home for two years.

From paintings by Rembrandt van Rijn and Edgar Degas to John Singer Sargent and James McNeill Whistler, the pieces stored at Handley represented some of the most important works in European and American art history.

To pay tribute to this collection of renowned art, and its significance in local and Handley history, the James R. Wilkins, Sr. Gallery of History and Art, featuring the Corcoran Gallery of Art National Treasures Exhibit, was installed in Handley’s esteemed main hall in 2009.

© OneHandley 2023