Washington Project for the Arts Established

1975 – Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) was established in 1975 by pioneer Alice Denney as an artist service center.  WPA was part of the grassroots movement of “alternative artist spaces.”  MWDCCo was involved with WPA prior to the opening of the first public space on G Street and assisted in the preparation of the space to present visual art exhibitions and performances.  Artists were on the Board of Directors and selected artists to be presented in the space. Maida was invited to serve as a WPA Member, Board of Directors, at the early founding of this important Washington, DC organization and served as Program Chair for several years.  Visit: http://wpadc.org/  WPA was one of the first, if not the first, artist driven multidisciplinary organization to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.  

MWDCCo created and performed several improvisation and choreographed events in the beautiful open space at WPA. MWDCCo continues to be involved in programs with WPA.  

WPA was extremely important to the multidisciplinary developments of MWDCCo.  Serving on the Board allowed Maida to meet local, national, and international artists.  Her responsibility on the Board developed her understanding of the possible relationship between dance and the visual arts.

The space in downtown Washington, DC (no longer exists) was rumored to be the back half of an old opera house.  This image drove many of the astonishing events that occurred in the space.  For example, there was a trap door in the middle of the space that allowed performers to exit down into the next level of the building (art gallery) or use the trap door as an entrance.  MWDCCo gave a public performance in the space prior to the official opening of WPA to test the space for audience flow.

Each performance for MWDCCo had a pre-determined script / score agreed upon by the collaborators (dancers, musicians, architects, etc).  The script was usually a structural guide.  For example, for one score in December before Christmas, all dancers brought unique/unusual clothing items (black, white, and red) that were placed in an ante room.  Each time a dancer exited they changed clothes before reentering. Hilarious connections began to be made as dancers wore the same hats, coats, and other odd assortments of clothing. Christmas lights made a rim around the edge of the marley stage floor and also filled holes in the red brick wall.

Celebration was common at WPA. There was often a cabaret-like atmosphere with the audience engaged in close proximity to the performers without the limitations of permanent seating.

WPA was a significant factor in the development of a new way of thinking about the arts in Washington, DC.

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