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 a critical thinking and a diversity of viewpoints.
Experimentation -- We believe in the courage to experiment, innovate, and face the unfamiliar.
a note about our "artist-driven" program model
WPA invites artists to conceive of programs that showcase the work or ideas of other artists (or creative thinkers, scholars, activists, etc.) and then supports them with money, introductions/connections, idea-development, planning & production, communications, marketing, and promotion. In our view, artist-driven programming combines the best of two existing models—“artist-run” and “artist-centered”. It is closer in intent to the former than the latter because artists are curating everything—exhibitions, performances, talks, workshops, screenings, platforms, etc. Yet it provides a degree of professional support and organizational stability that an “artist-run” organization might not. Artists can submit proposals for ideas here.
WPA was founded in 1975 by the art impresario Alice Denney, organizer of the legendary NOW Festival in 1966. Over the past four decades, and under the leadership of nearly a dozen directors, 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 also 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, among many others.
Visit the website for our 35th anniversary exhibition, CATALYST, to see more information about past exhibitions, participating artists, locations, board members, programs, and stories about WPA. Click HERE.
space & Neighborhood
WPA has a 1,500 sq. ft. ground floor, office/project space in the Atlantic Plumbing Building at 8th and V Sts. NW. Our immediate neighbors include Howard University, Duke Ellington School of the Arts’ temporary home, the 9:30 Club, the Atlantic Plumbing Cinemas, Hamiltonian Gallery, and dozens of new restaurants and nightclubs.
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.