In an interview with Northern Virginia Magazine, Wolf Trap CEO Arvind Manocha sheds light on his experience running the arts and culture institution.
The arts had a tough time during the pandemic, but Wolf Trap had great success with its fundraising campaign. Tell us about that.
When the pandemic hit in 2020, our focus really shifted to survival mode. We put the campaign to the side for a moment. In September of 2021, we had our 50th Anniversary Gala. We announced, at that point, the $50 million for 50 years campaign.
Our point with the campaign is to invest in the organization for its long-term success, whether it be in amenities that make the experiences better, or an endowment, which is a permanently protected source of programmatic funding.
Losing that entire 12 months prior only underscored just how important a strong financial underpinning is to an organization like ours. I think a lot of people in our sector felt the same way. We saw organizations that had the strongest foundations weather the storm better than those who didn’t. It just reminded everybody that things can change in an instant.
When we finally started to come out of the pandemic in the fall of ’21, things were open again and we were back to putting on concerts and celebrating our 50th, it felt like the moment to announce this campaign because we really need to make sure that Wolf Trap and other civic resources that we care about are going to be here for the next generation. … I’m very happy to say that we announced that we not only completed our goal but in fact surpassed it, ultimately raising $75 million to support Wolf Trap’s progress.
Wolf Traps attracts great talent. Are there any new acts you can tell us about?
I’ve learned in this business over many, many years that the day you start talking about that holy grail or the fish, that tends to be the fish that got away.
Who were some of your favorites last year?
Lauryn Hill was a favorite of mine. It was nice to have Sting back, too. The first two John Legend concerts were great because he was debuting a new production format. It was a very intimate show, with a lot of storytelling about his life.
What do you love most about living in Northern Virginia?
I’ve found that the community here is truly a community. People care about each other, and people care about the world around them. Even as Northern Virginia continues to grow and become a new version of itself, it feels like even in the 10 years I’ve lived here, you can see the changes. With all that change, I think there’s still a core characteristic, which is that I think this community of people really cares about each other. I think that that’s what makes living here great.
Feature image of Arvind Manocha by Angelina Namkung