Profiles

East City Interviews: Washington Project for the Arts Executive Director Lisa Gold

Partial view of WPA's Board of Directors selections. Photo by Zofie Lang for East City Art.

Partial view of WPA’s Board of Directors selections. Photo by Zofie Lang for East City Art.

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The Washington Project for the Arts has been a key organization for the DC art community since its founding in 1975, and has presented quality programming to support artists at all career levels ever since. Throughout the years, the WPA has utilized various locations, both for their headquarters and for events, including a 12-year stint at the Corcoran Gallery and five years in Dupont Circle. Last week, the WPA moved its administrative offices into the Capitol Skyline Hotel, which has hosted both (e)merge art fairs, and is owned by distinguished art collectors, Mera and Don Rubell. Simultaneously with the move, WPA’s SELECT exhibition and gala is in the process of being set up at 64 New York Ave in NoMa.
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I spoke with Lisa Gold, WPA’s Executive Director, about both sites and how they relate to WPA’s art programming.
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Zofie Lang (East City Art):  WPA just made the move to the Capitol Skyline Hotel, which sits very near the edge of Capitol Hill. I understand that your lease is temporary right now, but it is a shift from all the years spent in Northwest DC. What is your perspective on this new location?
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Lisa Gold:  We are thrilled to be at the Capitol Skyline! It’s always exciting to have a fresh start, and there is so much happening in this neighborhood. Of course there are all of the wonderful Arena Stage offerings, but it’s also great to have access to parks and waterfront and outdoor sculpture, and to an ice skating rink. I see so much potential for art and cultural activity in this part of town. And especially at the hotel! It’s already home to the (e)merge art fair, so artists and collectors know it well, and BYT [Brightest Young Things] has been hosting summer pool parties for a few years now, so that’s a great weekend activity. It’s interesting that so many people venture to the area during baseball season, but know so little about the neighborhood (or spend much time here outside of game days), which is changing so rapidly!
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ZL:  How do you plan to use your new space, and in which way do you think this may impact East DC?
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LG:  We are looking to make the hotel a meeting place for artists, and to hold events and exhibitions and temporary installations in the hotel. We already have our first Professional Practices workshop scheduled to take place in the lounge on February 28th. I think the artistic community needs a place for creative people to hang out and grab a drink or share ideas or hatch interesting plans. I hope the lounge at the Skyline can become that place. We hope to present interesting programs and welcome participation by other individuals or groups, and artists who want to share their ideas.
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ZL:  WPA will be hosting the annual SELECT Gala at 64 New York Ave in NoMa. How did you decide on this venue, and how did the geographic location factor into this decision?
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Featured work by Victoria F. Gaitan. Photo by Zofie Lang for East City Art.

Featured work by Victoria F. Gaitan. Photo by Zofie Lang for East City Art.

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LG:  We are so thrilled to present the SELECT exhibition and gala at 64 New York Ave. The staff at the NoMA BID are so helpful and Brookfield’s management company, Cassidy/Turley, has just been outstandingly hospitable to us! The building is absolutely perfect – our floor alone is about 35,000 SF of raw space. They were demoing the entire floor, but kept a few walls in place for us so we could hang art. The building has incredible views of the city and is just across the street from the NoMa – Gallaudet U Metro stop, so it couldn’t be more convenient. It’s close to the H St corridor and the Convention Center area, and to the artist studios on O Street. Plus it’s easy access for artists and curators and patrons coming in from Baltimore. I am tremendously grateful to Brookfield and Cassidy/Turley for allowing us to use this spectacular space.
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ZL:  You did a public art project with Patrick McDonough at Marvin Gaye Park in NE last summer. Do you plan to do any more public installations in the East part of the city?
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LG:  Yes, Patrick’s project was the culmination of a public art residency we established with Socrates Sculpture Park in New York. The first iteration of Patrick’s project, Awning Studies: Socrates, was built and shown there. It was slightly reconfigured and shown here as Awning Project: Marvin Gaye Park. The Park was really an ideal location as the Socrates and Deanwood neighborhoods shared common architectural elements that were reflected in Patrick’s work. And there was a summer camp in the recreation center connected to the park. Patrick was able to present a free art-making workshop with the campers as part of his project, which was fun for all of us.

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We would love to do more installations and projects in the city. We are working on siting a public art project now, but I’m not sure where it’s going to take place. Now that I’m working in SW every day, I see so much potential in this neighborhood! I’d love to do a performance series for all of the people who are lined up every day waiting to get their cars inspected. The inspection station is right next to the hotel and everyone – from the car owners to the inspectors – looks like they could use a little levity and creativity!
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ZL:  That’s a wonderful idea! Last but not least, what types of new partnerships, if any, do you plan on forging in the area?
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LG:  We are already working with our neighbors, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and I hope to build lots of new relationships once we’re a little more settled in the area. I have yet to discover all of the organizations that are doing great things in the community, so I look forward to reaching out and learning about them. There is so much potential!
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Work by Tazuko Ichikawa, who has exhibited with the WPA since the 1970s. Photo by Zofie Lang for East City Art.

Work by Tazuko Ichikawa, who has exhibited with the WPA since the 1970s. Photo by Zofie Lang for East City Art.

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  • The SELECT Art Auction Exhibition opening reception will take place on Saturday, February 16, 6-8pm.
  • Gallery Hours are 12pm – 6pm, Wednesday – Saturday, from February 20 – March 15.
  • Curator Talks will take place on February 20 and 27, 6:30pm.
  • The exhibition and talks are free and open to the public.
  • SELECT Auction Gala: Saturday, March 16, 2013, 6:30pm – midnight.
  • The exhibition will be on view at 64 New York Ave, NE, Washington DC. Go to http://auction.wpadc.org/ or call 202-234-7103 x5 for details.

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Zofie Lang
Authored by: Zofie Lang

Born in Poland and raised in Germany, Zofie Lang came to the United States in 1998 to study psychology at UMBC in Baltimore. An unexpected 8-month-exile in Germany in the year 2000 became a calling to create art. Immediately following the completion of her bachelor’s of psychology in late 2002, she pursued an art education at Towson University, Baltimore Clayworks, and at The Art League. For five years she operated her own ceramic studio, Zofie Lang Ceramics, creating functional and sculptural work. She also studied interior design at MICA and exhibition design at The Corcoran, and spent six years working in the interior design field. Since 2012 she is once again active in the visual art realm, creating mixed media work based on psychological undercurrents in fairy tales and superstitions. She is also teaching a class at Sitar Arts Center on Narrative Collage, and is a co-founder of Catalyst Projects, a new arts venture with a mission to present the DC arts community to the world beyond the DMV.