catalyst A substance that provokes or speeds significant change or action, usually at a faster rate or under different conditions than otherwise possible.
As Washington’s premier alternative space for over three decades, Washington Project for the Arts is presenting its 35th anniversary exhibition, a narrative re-collection of WPA’s presence in the city. In no way does Catalyst intend to sum up the best of WPA’s art. It offers instead a kaleidoscopic sampling of its artists, exhibitions, performances, programs, and events, which were often national and international in scope. Its vision suggests that artists in the Washington region have possessed a quiet but radical artistic autonomy throughout these last several decades.
WPA has been a true catalyst for art in this area precisely because, as an avant-garde institution, it has been so consistently validating of the new, the unexpected, and the difficult, offering space and attention to whatever was unfolding most vitally here.
Evident on every floor, arranged chronologically starting on the third level with WPA’s inception in 1975, is the authentically catalytic power of a contemporary alternative space, whose fundamental purpose has continually been to encourage, support, and help define a restlessly unique, radically creative theater of artmaking.