Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) is an artist-centered catalyst for the creation and presentation of contemporary art. We are the only DC-area organization to support visual artists at all stages of their careers.
WPA is in the process of converting from an artist-centered to a more artist-driven model. Future projects will be conceived and realized increasingly "by artists, for artists," meaning that artists will conceive, curate, produce, contextualize, and critique the majority of our activities.
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.
In November 2015, WPA opened a new, street-level gallery space, making our programs more visible and more accessible. Our new venue consists of a project space for exhibitions, installations, talks, workshops, and intimate performances. Floor-to-ceiling windows and an all-glass garage-style door open up the interior to the street.
WPA is located in the Atlantic Plumbing Building at 8th and V Sts. NW in an area newly dubbed North End Shaw. 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.