Board of Supervisors - Hunter Mill District

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Reston, VA 20190
Walter L. Alcorn
Hunter Mill District Supervisor

May 18, 2021 Joint Board Matter: 50th Anniversary of the First Performance at the Filene Center

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust Board Matter with Chairman Jeff McKay and Supervisor Alcorn 


Mr. Chairman, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first performance at the Filene Center, located in the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, known affectionately as simply Wolf Trap.

Millions of people of all ages have enjoyed performances at Wolf Trap because of the generosity and vision of Catherine Filene Shouse, who by 1956 had acquired 168 acres of land in Fairfax County.  The land was used as a family farm and a place to breed horses and dogs as well as a respite from the Shouse home in Georgetown.  As roads and suburbs began to encroach her land, Ms. Shouse had the forethought to preserve the family farm as a park.

In 1966, Congress accepted her generous gift of 100 acres for the Filene Center, (named in honor of her parents), and authorized the Wolf Trap Farm Park as the first national park for the performing arts. 

In 1968, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts was incorporated.

The inaugural performance was held on July 1, 1971 and featured such prominent performers as Van Cliburn. Since that date, concerts at Wolf Trap have helped define the summer for generations of music lovers.

Wolf Trap is a partnership and collaboration of the National Park Service and the Wolf Trap Foundation.  NPS staffs and operates the park grounds; the Foundation produces and presents the performance and educational programs.

In 1981, Ms. Shouse donated two historic barns that she had brought to Virginia from New York and had rebuilt to accommodate smaller performances.  Under management of the Foundation, the buildings are used for The Barns at Wolf Trap, which operates year-round, and the Wolf Trap Opera, a venue for young aspiring opera singers.

The Foundation also conducts many educational programs including Early Learning Through the Arts, a nationally recognized college internship program, and the Children’s Theatre-in-the Woods performance center held from late June through early August. 

In August 2002, the park changed its name to Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts to reflect its mission while retaining reference to the historic significance of the area.  

Many of us will remember the devastating fire that occurred on April 4, 1982, which destroyed the Filene Center. Despite that destruction, performances continued and were still held in a make-shift tent, dubbed the Meadow Center.

The COVID-19 pandemic did what a fire could not do.  For the first and only time in its 50-year history the Filene Center was dark in 2020. Fortunately, the summer of 2021 will be different. Working hard as a team, staff has created well-vetted safety protocols to protect patrons, employees, and artists. While Wolf Trap will not operate at full capacity, patrons will once again experience the arts in a natural setting.

THEREFORE, Mr. Chairman, without objection, we ask that the Board invite representatives of the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts to come before the Board, at a time when presentations have resumed, to be recognized for the 50th anniversary of the first performance at the Filene Center as well as for the Foundation’s cultural and educational contributions to our community since 1971.   



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