ARTISTS BUILDING COMMUNITY THROUGH COLLABORATION, EXPERIMENTATION, AND ADVOCACY
Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) is a nonprofit incubator and publisher for artist-organized projects.
Artists curate all of our programming—as an extension of their own research and experimentation.
A thriving arts community is essential to the enduring health of our society.
We envision our nation’s capital as a place that welcomes, values, and respects the presence and contributions of contemporary artists.
WPA supports artist-driven projects, advocacy, and dialogue so that artists can live, work, and flourish.
Collaboration — We believe there is strength in people working together in partnership.
Inclusion — We believe in the power of critical thinking and a diversity of viewpoints.
Experimentation — We believe in the courage to experiment, innovate, and face the unfamiliar.
ABOUT OUR PROGRAMS
Our program model provides artists with the opportunity to expand their practices and experiment without absorbing additional financial burdens or capacity barriers. We provide resources to create critical connections and long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships that build artistic communities around knowledge-sharing.
Our programs are organized across four different areas:
- Project Residencies that support collaborative research, experimentation, and public presentations of artist-organized projects.
- Publications highlighting discoveries that emerge from select project residencies, providing context for further research and experimentation.
- Wherewithal Grants, a funding source exclusive to artists in the region—to support research and self-produced presentations. Generously funded by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts as part of its Regional Re-Granting Program.
- Open Call, our annual call for events organized by DC-area artists, taking place in and around DC and produced by WPA.
.ARTISTS SUPPORTING ARTISTS
Additionally we organize opportunities for regional artists through two major annual special events:
- Hickok Cole Art Night, an annual benefit taking place each fall and organized in collaboration with architecture firm Hickok Cole, which supports sales of artwork.
- Collectors’ Night, WPA’s annual auction taking place each spring, which also supports sales of artwork.
All proceeds are split evenly between artists and WPA, annually raising over $300k in direct sales.
Our commitment to artist compensation is why WPA is the first arts organization between New York and Miami to be honored with W.A.G.E. certification.
In the past decade alone WPA has paid more than $200,000 in honorariums to artists and $1,000,000 in sales commissions to artists. We’ve put even more money into artists’ pockets by hiring them on staff, or on a contract basis for art handling and transport, fabrication, graphic design, installation, and photography.
We value artists. We pay artists.
WPA was founded in 1975 by the art impresario Alice Denney, organizer of the legendary NOW Festival in 1966. Over the past four decades, WPA has presented more than 500 exhibitions; 1,000 performances; 700 lectures, workshops, and symposia; 250 screenings; and 58 public art projects. Nearly every major visual artist in the District between 1975 and today has had some connection with WPA. Many have sat on WPA’s Board of Directors, including William Christenberry, Gene Davis, Sherman Fleming, Sam Gilliam, Martha Jackson-Jarvis, and Maida Withers. Walter Hopps, the legendary curator, was also a board member.
WPA has brought hundreds of extraordinary artists and curators from outside the area to DC over the years. They include Robert Ashley, Alice Aycock, Eric Bogosian, Chris Burden, John Cage, Ullises Carrion, CoLab, Lucinda Childs, Simone Forti, Hollis Frampton, Group Material, Doug Hall, Deborah Hay, Jenny Holzer, David Ireland, Danny Lyon, Meredith Monk, Antonio Muntadas, Steve Paxton, Howardena Pindell, Adrian Piper, Nancy Rubins, Allison Saar, Jacolby Satterwhite, Carolee Schneemann, Joyce Scott, Alan Sekula, Nancy Spero, Haim Stainbach, Alan Suicide, Saya Woolfalk, Robert Wilson, Zanele Muholi, Alisha B. Wormsley, among many others.
Washington Project for the Arts is today perhaps most familiar to those outside of DC for its role in modeling a resistance to censorship during the 90s culture wars when Robert Mapplethorpe’s exhibition The Perfect Moment was canceled at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1989 (due to the Corcoran’s fears of losing their NEA funding on the basis of visual obscenity). WPA stepped up within less than 24 hours to present the exhibition. In 2019, Tiona Nekkia McClodden was invited to revisit this historic event in WPA’s history with the exhibition There Are No Shadows Here: The Perfect Moment at 30. In the decades since the Mapplethorpe exhibition, WPA has remained a dynamic hub for presenting work by DC artists and providing resources for supporting the local creative community. After renewing its mission in 2018, WPA has carved out a new identity with a national and international scope, while simultaneously uplifting values of collaboration, experimentation, and inclusivity in all of its programmatic and operational activities.
The WPA staff includes artists, curators, and arts workers.
Nathalie von Veh
WPA’s board of directors is comprised of artists, arts patrons, and arts professionals with a shared commitment to supporting contemporary artists as intellectuals, and advancing their art and thought through collaboration and experimentation.
Nora Severson Cafritz
Michael Hickok FAIA
Deirdre Ehlen MacWilliams
Maria del Carmen Montoya
Frederick P. Ognibene, M.D.
William C. Paley
None at this time.