Washington Performing Arts (WPA) has engaged with Washingtonians for over half a century at venues in the city ranging from classic concert halls to public parks. Now, the organization prepares to take on their most intimate venue yet: your home. In light of the obstacles Covid-19 presents to performing arts organizations, the WPA team knew it would have to adjust how they brought the arts to patrons in a safe but still engaging way.
Enter 2021’s Home Delivery Plus season. The Home Delivery Plus platform promises meaningful performances from innovators across multiple genres, as well as some “behind the scenes” experiences such as deep dives into art and culture led by featured artists, “backstage” pre-performance conversations with the artist or special guests, an opportunity between sets for live stream viewers to interact with each other and more.
“As an organization that does not have a venue of its own, we had a certain sense of nimbleness through which we could work,” Jenny Bilfield, president and CEO of WPA says of their transition to online performances. “This flexibility allowed us to put together a season that addressed the economic limitations, but was also true to our mission.”
A number of artists have already been confirmed for the virtual season, including pianists Jenny Lin and Sir András Schiff, the D.C.-based group The String Queens, J’Nai Bridges and Alisa Weilerstein. Additional programs will be announced as the summer continues on the WPA’s Home Delivery Plus web page. The available packages mark a shift in format from previous seasons, but not in quality. Each package in the 2021 season will be created in collaboration of the featured artists, allowing their creativity and voices to shine.
“The level of dynamic engagement with artists was really peaked with this new approach,” Bilfield says. “The fact that so many artists are creating so many things from their homes and studios is giving them fresh perspectives in how they want to show up in this new environment, when you couple the global pandemic issues alongside some of the very intensive and pent-up social issues that we’re confronting. Artists are changed through this – we’re changed through this. We began to see this as more of a pivot of a business model, but more of a way to invite artists as differently as they might want to think about the work that they are doing.”
While you wait for the virtual 2021 WPA season to roll around, check out Fall for Local: the online programming highlighting artistic excellence in our region. Debuting on August 29 with a stirring performance by Christopher Tin, Fall for Local will focus on uplifting D.C.-based performers, teaching artists and businesses through this free online programming.
“Community-based programming is a big part of our work, whether its arts education, or featuring [local] artists or presenting free performances,” Bilfield says. “Given that our region has been through so much and that artists are really bearing the brunt of the venue closures, and the economy, and the [banning of] mass gatherings, we really wanted to shine a bright light on the incredible talent in Washington.”
The WPA team is still finalizing the dates and times of Fall for Local and Home Delivery Plus performances as the rules and regulations surrounding performing arts continue to change. The WPA is committed to providing inspiring and delightful programming to the D.C. area, as well as keeping artists and patrons safe and healthy. Though converting performing arts to an online format is a challenge, it is a necessity until everyone can safely gather once again.
“As an organization that does not have a venue of its own, we had a certain sense of nimbleness through which we could work,” Jenny Bilfield says.
“It’s pretty common knowledge that the arts will be, unfortunately, one of the last things to come back as far as in-person things go,” says Samantha Pollack, WPA’s Director of Programming. “It’s heartbreaking, but it is an opportunity to rethink how we stay engaged. While we’re planning with a baseline that we will not be able to allow in-person ticket buyers, we hope we will be allowed to safely welcome people back into the concert hall with a lot of these exciting digital companion events.”
In this strange time, staying connected while apart is proving to be the best way to stay sane. The performing arts have always brought communities together, and will continue to do so despite the current predicament we find ourselves in. Join WPA and its featured artists for both Fall for Local and Home Delivery Plus seasons, and reconnect with the performing arts from afar.
Enjoy this piece? Consider becoming a member for access to our premium digital content and to get a monthly print edition delivered to your door. Support local journalism and start your membership today.