WPA History | Catalyst

WPA History

Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to provide essential resources to support the creative spirit and success of regional artists. We present contemporary art through imaginative and provocative programs; and we connect artists with the community in both traditional and unexpected ways.

One of the longest lasting alternative arts organizations in the country, WPA was founded in 1975 by local visionary Alice Denney not simply a place for artists to show, but also as a service center for artists to receive advice in arts management, grants, career development, and legal rights. Denney leased a vacant, rundown building at 1227 G Street, NW from the city’s Redevelopment Land Agency for $1 per year and renovated it on a shoestring budget with immeasurable help from artists, friends, and community members. The building included five galleries, a film screening room, a performing arts space, and offices. Denney presented dozens of solo exhibitions by local artists as well as experimental dance, theater, poetry, and music. Through the efforts of subsequent directors, the organization continued to grow, becoming widely recognized as one of the most active artists’ spaces in the nation. Since 1975, WPA has presented hundreds of exhibitions and works by thousands of artists through the city, engaging audiences and artists with its innovative and pioneering programs.

Today, WPA continues to provide opportunities for local artists to gain exposure for their work, and fosters connections between artists, curators, arts patrons, and the general public. WPA actively seeks out and promotes collaborations within the creative community, frequently partnering with institutions such as The Phillips Collection, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, and the American University Museum as well as galleries and non-traditional venues.

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