The Washington, DC-based non-profit Washington Project for the Arts (WPA), which serves to support artists in the capital, announced on Wednesday that it will introduce a new series of artists grants with funding from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The move comes as the main grant-making body in the area, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH), is locked in a struggle with Mayor Muriel Bowser over the city’s arts agenda and funding. Conflicts escalated in September to the point of DCCAH staffers being temporarily locked out from the organization’s art collection.
“WPA has taken a strong position in defense of artists affected by some of the local political skirmishes of the past 16 months,” says Peter Nesbett, the executive director of the WPA. “We are hoping to complement the funding for artists already available through the DCCAH to ensure that independent, DIY culture thrives in this region. We are also responding to the reality that many of the area's artists have been forced over the border into Maryland and Virginia, making them ineligible for DCCAH support.”
The WPA’s new Wherewithal Grants are funded through a $200,000, two-year grant from the Warhol Foundation, and aim to support “public-facing alternative and experimental visual art projects” in Washington, DC in “non-traditional venues,” according to a statement. “Projects can include performances or performance festivals, workshops, publications, installations, exhibitions, screening, etc,” the WPA says.
“We recognised the importance of unaffiliated and under-recognised artists’ projects in non-traditional venues and saw that there was a lack of funding for these experimental artistic practices,” Nesbett adds.
Rachel Bers, the programme director of the Warhol Foundation, notes that “artists operating independently at the grassroots level are responsible for some of the most engaged and risk-taking work being produced today, yet there are few if any existing mechanisms for funding their often small-scale, temporary, non-incorporated efforts.”
The WPA will divy up the awards in the form of 10 to 15 grants per year, ranging from $2,500 to $7,500. They expect to award $60,000 per year in total, with the balance going towards administrative support. The first round of grants will be announced in December 2020, and will support projects taking place throughout 2021.