- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

Asense of joy, vitality and renewed purpose filled the halls of the Corcoran Gallery of Art Friday night as friends gathered to celebrate a new beginning for the oft-beleaguered Washington Project for the Arts.
The spirit and magic of the evening's "elegant carnival" theme added just the right touch of giddiness to the scene as guests pranced through the Great Hall and up the marble staircase wearing masks, plumage and gaudy tropical attire.
Anyone who matters among collectors, gallery owners and "downtown" arts scenesters was there for WPA's Curator's Choice dinner and art auction, with most rising to the occasion in the dress-up department. No boring bourgeois types in this group, if you please.
There was Giant Foods heir Robert Lehrman resembling a prosperous sugar-cane planter at Mardi Gras in a white suit, colorfully splayed pocket scarf and feathery mask-on-a-stick which covered his face for about a minute and a half.
Alison Paley's exotic robes and violet wig brought to mind a glamorous country-house party scene where Victoria Mary Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf and other "Bright Young Things" might have gathered in 1920s England. Her guests, table mates Olvia Demetriou and Lenore Winter , did the "wig number" too, with Ms. Demetriou looking tres Leslie Caron in brown pageboy locks and Ms. Winter the perfect vamp in long jet-black tresses.
Amid the gaiety, longtime supporters noted the extraordinary progress WPA has enjoyed in the eight months since Annie Adjchavanich took over as acting executive director.
"She has resurrected it from the dead," gallery owner George Hemphill said, praising the 34-year-old Miss Adjchavanich's abilities not to only "connect" with up-and-coming Washington artists, but to plan exhibitions and effectively raise funds as well.
Not only that, she is "an established artist in her own right," Mr. Lehrman pointed out.
Plagued by disastrous budget crises that forced the organization to cut staff, curtail exhibitions and abandon its downtown headquarters building in 1996, WPA is now happily situated at the Corcoran, where it has been getting back slowly on its financial and artistic feet.
"After a long series of ups and downs, we're finally back up," board Chairman Dan Burton noted while awaiting the results of a silent auction that ultimately added another $40,000 to the $100,000 raised from individual and corporate donors.
Fifty-seven of the 71 works donated (all or in part) by local artists were sold to bidders, who, as one of the curators, Sarah Tanguy , pointed out, "got a good opportunity to buy at an attractive price."
David Levy , whose directorship of the Corcoran makes him WPA's quasi-official godfather, couldn't have been more pleased at the "triumph."
Where else but an event for the WPA, he asked, could you get together such a hip crowd and still make that much money?
Kevin Chaffee


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