Bucking bull by Gilley's, bottle beer by Pearl, chili by Chill Lee. $1Texas is one theme of tonight's cowboy-booted benefit at the Washington Project for the Arts. The other is: Vamoose.
The WPA is being shooed off its spread.
The successful "alternative" art space -- which helped pioneer the downtown drift of this city's art scene -- has been told to leave its 18,000-square-foot home at 1227 G St. NW by June 31. And it has no place to go.
"We're looking," said its director, Al Nodal. "And we are optimistic. There are two things I can promise. We are going to stay downtown. and we are not going to die."
The WPA has an annual budget of $250,000, of which only 28 percent comes from governmental sources. The WPA annually arranges more than 100 exhibits and performances.
Its neighborhood was once low-rent, but no longer. The WPA's city-owned building will be demolished to make room for the $160-million Metro Center development of the Oliver T. Carr Co. What happened in New York's Soho, in Chicago's Near North and here in Dupont Circle now appears to be happening downtown. Artists again are being priced out of an area they helped revive.
The WPA, says Nodal, is considering four options: "We might borrow another city-owned building on an interim basis, and then move back into the Carr Co.'s development -- but we don't really want a slick space, and the rents there will be high. Or we might be given an old school or some other building by the District government. There is an outside chance that the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. might offer us a space that we could afford -- we need at least 12,000 square feet. Or -- and this is the worst option -- we might try to raise, say, $250,000, and attempt to buy a building."
D.C. Councilman John Wilson, a WPA board member, says "the city's major industries are: one, government; two, parking; three, retail sales. The arts should be fourth. It's essential that the WPA survive. And it should stay downtown."
PADC chairman Max Berry says he is "committed to the WPA. We're going to try to help them identify possible sites near 7th Street NW. We know how important the downtown art scene is -- and how fragile. We'd hate to see it die."
Though some attending tonight's Texas-style fund-raiser for the WPA's performance program may interpret its boots and Stetsons as homage to the early movies of the president, the credit belongs to Bob Wade.It was that Texas artist who built "The Largest Cowboy Boots in the World" for the WPA at the intersection of 12th and G streets. But that outdoor sculpture site, too, must be surrendered, the organization has been told.