New McLean Project for Arts executive director

Susan Corrigan, who on March 2 began her new job as executive director of the McLean Project for the Arts, poses with Joe Wetzel, the organization's board chairman. (Photo by Dabney Cortina)

Susan Corrigan’s interest in the arts began when her father brought home slide shows featuring famous images from art museums around the world, complete with narration by the late Vincent Price.

“Everybody is creative,” said Corrigan, who on March 2 began her new job as executive director of McLean Project for the Arts (MPA). “Everybody is an artist. Everybody has the opportunity to practice the craft that’s unique to them.”

Corrigan succeeds Nancy Powers Perry, who led MPA for 11 years before departing last August to become government-affairs director at the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts.

“I love to work with organizations to help them achieve their highest performance,” Corrigan said. “MPA has a great history. I felt it was a really good match. It will take the skills I’ve learned over my career and put them to good use.”

MPA, a non-profit founded in 1962, has an annual budget of about $800,000 and 10 staff members, many of whom work part-time. Corrigan said she will evaluate how the organization’s programs are aligned with its strategic plan.

As with most non-profits, another goal will be to strengthen and expand the organization’s financing sources.

“There is not a deficit with MPA. They’re in a healthy financial position,” Corrigan said. “But we need a broader funding base with more depth to expand our programs. It’s the engine that provides the power for what you want to do.”

A Pittsburgh native, Corrigan holds a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University. She began her career as a television producer in Pittsburgh, then made training films for the U.S. Department of Labor.

She subsequently served as assistant to the president and chief of staff with the United Way of America in Alexandria, then spent the longest stretch in her career – from 1983 to 2005 – as founder, president and CEO of Gifts In Kind International, also based in Alexandria.

Corrigan helped build the organization into the third-largest charity in the United States, behind only the Red Cross and Salvation Army – both of which obtain many of their donations following disasters.

Gifts In Kind International in 1996 launched affiliate programs in more than two dozen countries. Such initiatives are not planned for MPA in the near future, but are not out of the realm of possibility, Corrigan said.

“We’re in a global environment through the Web and with visitors to the D.C. area,” she said. “There’s an opportunity [to expand MPA’s programs to other nations], but it’s not on the short-term horizon.”

After short stints at United Way, Mental Health America, the YWCA Greater Pittsburgh and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, Corrigan spent five years as executive director of the American Art Therapy Association.

Corrigan also served as the first president of the Torpedo Factory Art Center in Alexandria.

She most recently served as special consultant for organizational development with Space of Her Own Inc. and its boys’ program, Space of His Own.

Over her career, Corrigan has received the Office Depot “Visionary Award,” the National Foundation of Women Legislators’ “Lifetime Achievement Award,” Pacific Graduate School of Stanford’s “Cantor Award for Excellence in Non-profit Management” and the Samaritan Foundation’s “Humanitarian Partnership Award.”

MPA board chairman Joe Wetzel said Corrigan is a “magnificent manager” and the organization’s leadership feels lucky to have her on board.

“She brings to the table a wealth of experience in the art and non-profit worlds,” he said. “She’s served on both sides of boards of directors and knows how to be a board member and serve a board. Her depth of non-profit experience is astounding.”

Wetzel added the board hopes Corrigan will provide a clear vision for MPA’s future.

“One tends to get myopic when one is in the forest and can only see the trees,” he said. “We hope her knowledge and love of MPA, along with a third-party view, will take us to the next step.”

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