Donnellan made the recommendation at today’s County Board meeting, after being charged by the Board earlier this year to study Artisphere and suggest a way forward for the money-losing, county-run center.
“I will be recommending that the county close the Artisphere as a cultural center in fiscal year 2016,” Donnellan said. “This was a business decision… this was a tough decision, a disappointing one. The reality is that the Artisphere has not lived up to projections.”
Donnellan said Artisphere, in her opinion, would require “substantial ongoing tax support.”
“That is not what we promised our community when we opened Artisphere,” she said. Artisphere will remain open through June 30. It will close after that, if the County Board adopts Donnellan’s recommendation. After Donnellan gave her report, it became clear that the Board was behind her decision and it’s likely the art center will close on June 30.
“I support what you suggested, that next June, Artisphere would close as we know it,” Board Chair Jay Fisette said. “My hope is whatever option will move forward on our economic competitiveness goals one way or another.”
County Board member John Vihstadt, who had used the Artisphere as an example of wasteful county spending in his election campaign this year, obliquely referenced the county’s cancellation of the streetcar last month.
“I think we all realize the changing course on a long community initiative, as has happened in the last few years and months, is never easy,” he said. Speaking to reporters after the meeting had adjourned, he added, “I think it was the right decision. I was concerned about the Artisphere all along.”
County staff will be studying options for sub-leasing Artisphere to a private company or a private-public partnership in the “arts, media, technology” space, or returning it to landlord Monday Properties, Donnellan said.
She called the recommendation “a repositioning, not a retreat.” County staff will be tasked with coming up with a new art plan for the county, one that reflects current fiscal realities.
“Smart communities know when to reevaluate decisions,” Donnellan said.
The 62,000 square foot facility opened with a flourish, at a cost of $6.7 million in October 2010. Optimistic projections of a quarter million annual visitors quickly crashed down to earth in 2011. Visitor revenue was 75 percent below expectations, and Artisphere’s in-house restaurant closed after just a few months in business.
Arlington Economic Development assumed control of Artisphere by the end of 2011, and began implementing a business plan that included shorter hours and actively renting the facility for non-art-related events. The changes were successful by some measures, but problems remained — the facility again went over budget in Fiscal Year 2013. Last month, County Board allocated $1.3 million in its annual budget close-out for Artisphere-related expenses next year.
Donnellan told reporters after her report that 20 part-time and 12 full-time staff work at Artisphere, and some may be able to continue working in other areas of the county, but there will be some who lose their jobs.
The County Board may officially decide to close Artisphere before its April budget motion, Vihstadt said, and Donnellan said she will soon begin discussions with Monday Properties about the space’s future.
This evening, Donnellan will ask the Board to approve a $5 million loan to another art center, Signature Theatre. She said the two recommendations are “business decisions” and should be looked at separately.
ModevCon, a conference for people interested in designing software for mobile platforms, is coming to Arlington next week.
Starting at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11, Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) will host hundreds of developers attending dozens of lectures, workshops and sponsors over a two-day event. The conference is described as “the East Coast’s premier mobile development event.”
The schedule also includes networking events and sessions on developing for iOS and Android, design, cross-platform technology and marketing. Panels include topics like “Women in Mobile Development” and monetizing apps.
The event is still open for registration. For two full days the conference costs $595 — it’s $395 for Thursday only and $295 for Friday only. Registration is still open here.
Arlington County’s economic development office, which runs Artisphere, is listed as a platinum-level sponsor of the event.
Warm weather may be winding down but Arlington’s innovation economy is heating up.
Tandem NSI, which connects technology entrepreneurs and national security agencies, is hosting an “Throwback Thursday” event on Oct. 2, promising that “summer’s not over until we say it is.”
Classic rock band Two Car Living Room will perform at the free event, which is being held at Artisphere from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Also on offer: beers and the exhibit Think With Your Hands, a collaboration between artists and software developers.
Register for the event here.
Opower Sets IPO Price — Courthouse-based Opower is expected to start selling shares on the New York Stock Exchange today. The company set the price for its initial public offering at $19 per share. [Washington Business Journal]
A Brief History of Fairlington — Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood was built by the U.S. government in the 1940s in response to a housing shortage caused by World War II. It’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. [Washington Post]
AFAC Fundraiser Tonight — The Arlington Food Assistance Center’s Young Professionals group will hold its annual Hunger Is No Joke fundraiser tonight at Cafe Asia in Rosslyn. The 90s cover band White Ford Bronco will perform. [Clarendon Nights]
Cuban Band to Perform at Artisphere Tonight — Also tonight, at Artisphere in Rosslyn, the Grammy-nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will perform. Tickets to the 8:00 p.m. performance are $25 at the door. [Ode Street Tribune]
Temporary Bus Stop Relocations — A number of bus stops on N. Moore Street in front of the Rosslyn Metro station will be relocated from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. The relocations are necessary to allow the demolition of the Moore Street skybridge. Also, starting today, the ART 53 bus stop at Old Glebe and N. Stafford Street is closed for construction for about a week. [Arlington Transit]
Wakefield Reaches Championship — The Wakefield Warriors boys basketball squad has reached the championship game of the Capitol Conference 13 tournament. The championship game will be played tonight at 8:00 p.m. [Sun Gazette]
Wounded Warrior Happy Hour — Deloitte will be hosting a happy hour to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project tonight. The fundraiser is taking place at Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill in Courthouse (2424 Wilson Blvd) through 9:00 p.m. [Clarendon Nights]
Is Artisphere Succeeding? — Artisphere “may have turned a corner,” writes Our Man in Arlington columnist Charlie Clark. The arts center got off to a “shaky start” in 2010, “but it took a step back and retooled, so the path ahead for bringing more people to Arlington is a good one,” said Karen Vasquez, Arlington’s director of cultural affairs. [Falls Church News-Press]
Yorktown Defeats W-L in Basketball — Yorktown’s boys basketball squad defeated Washington-Lee on Friday by a score of 60-52. During the game Washington-Lee senior Jonah Sens scored his 1,000th career point. [Sun Gazette]
Court Orders Yelp Critics Identified — A Virginia Appeals Court last week ruled in favor of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning in a case against the online reviews site Yelp. Under the ruling, Yelp must reveal the identities of seven negative reviewers that Hadeed believes are not actual customers. Hadeed was represented by Raighne Delaney, an attorney with the Arlington law firm of Bean, Kinney & Korman. [Washington Times]
Exhibit-Goers Might Wonder ‘Y’ – An exhibit at Artisphere by artist Alicia Eggert features “a rock sit[ting] on the keyboard of a Macbook Air laptop, typing the letter ‘Y’ into infinity.” The exhibit runs through Feb. 2. [Ode Street Tribune]
Infamy for Arlington Nonprofit’s Former Logo — A former logo of the Arlington Pediatric Center, a local nonprofit healthcare provider in South Arlington, has been named one of the “15 Worst Corporate Logo Fails” by a popular online publication. [Business Insider]
Photo courtesy Becky Barnes
(Updated at 2:30 p.m.) Democratic Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey is explaining in more depth why she has decided to endorse an independent candidate to fill the Board seat to be vacated by Democrat Chris Zimmerman at the end of January.
Garvey is endorsing self-identified Republican John Vihstadt, who announced last week that he would run as an independent in the spring 2014 special election.
Garvey stated that none of the three announced Democratic candidates likely will change the way the current Board members set priorities. She decided to endorse Vihstadt instead because she believes he can provide change.
“The issue is that I don’t think there is a Democratic candidate that has or is going to announce for the endorsement that is going to alter the dynamic on the County Board right now… Vihstadt by far is so much closer to my values, my way of working,” Garvey told ARLnow.com. “He’s going to be the one to help me take the county in the direction I think it needs to go and the others will not. I am a Democrat, but in this case there is not a Democratic candidate that can do what needs to be done for Arlington. John can do that. So I’ve got to support him, why would I not? That’s what’s right for Arlington.”
She said Vishstadt “gets it” and he can help change the way current Board members operate.
“My colleagues are all good people, but they’ve been doing things a certain way for a very long time,” Garvey said. “I think we need a new perspective and a fresh way of looking at things, and John will bring that.”
One of the key reasons Garvey will not provide support to a fellow Democrat is her opposition to the Columbia Pike streetcar. Vihstadt also opposes the streetcar, writing in his announcement of candidacy last week, “Now that the County’s application for federal funding has been rejected, Arlington taxpayers may be directly on the hook to finish a five mile line that will displace small businesses and affordable housing, will not connect to the Pentagon, and which fails to materially improve Pike transit.”
Although Arlington currently maintains a triple-A bond rating, Garvey believes the streetcar eventually could prove “financially disastrous” for the county. She noted that the project still can be re-evaluated considering it will be a while before final votes are taken.
“I know they all talk about how it’s a done deal, but it’s not a done deal until we sign a contract with a company and commit hundreds of millions of dollars to pay that company to build this thing. We’re not anywhere near that yet,” she said.
“The streetcar is useless and will actually make things worse on the Pike,” she continued. “A streetcar is nothing more than a bus on tracks with wires, but it costs a whole lot more… There are ways to accomplish what you want to for a whole lot less.”
Garvey believes a significant amount of money in the county’s Transportation Capital Fund that’s set aside for the streetcar could be used for more beneficial projects such as Metro funding and street paving.
“We’d have to raise taxes to do that right now because all of this money is sitting in a fund that is, as I understand it, reserved for the streetcar,” she said. “This is, again, why I’m supporting John, because I believe he will help me to get the Board to sort of re-examine some of these things and work through the community with it.”
Development Exacerbating Metro’s Capacity Problem — New development near Metro stations, including a nearly-completed office tower and planned apartment tower in Rosslyn, is expected to further tax the already-busy Metrorail system. Also adding to Metro’s capacity woes, particularly along the Blue and Orange lines: new riders who will be coming aboard along the soon-to-open Silver Line. [Washington Post]
Nearly 1,000 Brave Rain for E-CARE Event – Nearly 1,000 people braved cold and rain to recycle hazardous household materials, electronics and other items on Saturday’s biannual E-CARE event. About 34.6 tons of hazardous materials and 15 tons of electronics were dropped off, according to Arlington officials. That compares to 41.5 tons of hazardous materials and 11.5 tons of electronics last fall.
No Room in Arlington for New High School — There’s no place to put a fourth high school in Arlington. That’s the conclusion reached by Arlington Public Schools staff, which has been studying options for increasing the school system’s capacity on the high school level. Despite the fact that Arlington’s high schools are all recently built or renovated, they’re all either over or approaching capacity as the student population continues to grow. [Sun Gazette, Arlington Public Schools]
‘Monkeys With Typewriters’ at Artisphere — A local writing group called Monkeys With Typewriters meets weekly at Artisphere. The group includes writers working on novels and other projects. [Ode Street Tribune]
Flickr pool photo by eschweik
Pop artist Andy Warhol’s famed Silver Clouds exhibit opened at Artisphere with a celebratory bash Thursday night.
Attendees got to play with the floating, metallic balloons in Artisphere’s Terrace Gallery. There are more than 150 of the carefully maintained “clouds,” which are on loan from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
The exhibit will be on display and open to the public until Sunday Oct. 20, at 1101 Wilson Blvd.
Photos courtesy of Nick Khazal
Andy Warhol’s famous Silver Clouds exhibit is open starting tonight at Artisphere.
The cultural center, at 1101 Wilson Blvd, will be hosting the exhibit’s 150 inflated silver balloons — on loan from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh — until Sunday, Oct. 20, and it will host a kickoff party for the event tonight (Thursday) from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
Silver Clouds will be presented free to the public in Artisphere’s Terrace Gallery. The clouds, which are filled with a delicate balance of air and helium, are free for visitors to walk among and touch.
The exhibition will be complemented by a series of public programs, including a commissioned dance performance and interactive workshop by Dance Exchange. Spanish new media artist Sergio Albiac will also be creating a commissioned generative portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama inspired by Andy Warhol’s signature portraiture.
Photo courtesy of Brandon Pass and Artisphere
A local band, with the help of collaborators, will perform for eight hours straight at Artisphere tomorrow to promote its new EP release.
Bella Russia, based in D.C., will perform Sept. 7 from noon to 8:00 p.m. in Artisphere’s Black Box Theatre, at 1101 Wilson Blvd. The band is releasing its new EP, “Epaulet,” Saturday and — once the marathon concert is over — hosting a release party from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m. with performances by other artists and a cash bar.
Visitors will be able to watch the performance from a viewing window above the theater and will only allowed to enter the theater during the afterparty. The Sea Life and Janel and Anthony will be performing during the release party.
“With a live show consisting of manic instrument changes, unexpected arrangements, and blistering instrumentation, D.C.-based Bella Russia falls somewhere between rhythmic avant-indie and progressive instrumental,” according to The Pink Line Project‘s announcement of the event. “On stage, the band layers and builds their driving and occasionally nerdy compositions into sounds that at times seem too impossibly complex to be coming from a trio.”
Photo by Yassine el Mansouri, via Artisphere
Real Estate Tax Delinquencies Rise — The number of real estate tax delinquencies in Arlington rose slightly this year, compared to one year prior. A total of 407 taxpayers missed the June 15 real estate tax deadline this year, compared to 387 last year. Those who miss the June 15 deadline are subject to a 10 percent penalty plus accumulating interest. [Sun Gazette]
Comic-Making Exhibit at Artisphere — Starting today through Nov. 3, comic book artists will be taking up residency in Artisphere for the creation of a new comic. On Thursday evenings and Saturday afternoons, the public can watch the artists at work, and try their hand at their own comic creations. [DC Conspiracy, Ode Street Tribune]
Lt. Gov. Debate at GMU Arlington Campus — A debate between the Republican and Democratic candidate for Virginia lieutenant governor will be held at Founders Hall on George Mason University’s Arlington campus next month. E.W. Jackson (R) will be debate Ralph Northam (D) starting at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 24.
Flickr pool photo by N ARLINGTON ST
Moran, Wolf Visit Gitmo — Last Friday, Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Frank Wolf (R-Va.) visited the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, where suspected foreign terrorists are held and interrogated. Moran, who has said that keeping the facility open “is not worth the damage it continues to inflict on our international standing,” said after the trip that he hopes to work out a compromise with Wolf, who supports keeping the facility open. [Sun Gazette]
Shirlington Oktoberfest Date Set — This year’s Shirlington Oktoberfest, the largest of its kind in N. Va., will take place on Saturday, Oct. 5. Over 50 breweries will be represented. [Shirlington Village Blog Spot]
Silver Clouds will consist of 150 silver balloons suspended in the air after being filled with a careful mix of helium and air, according to Artisphere. Artisphere has started an IndieGogo campaign to try to raise $10,000 to offset the cost of maintaining the balloons’ delicate inflation balance.
The exhibit will open Thursday, Sept. 12 in the Terrace Gallery and will be free to the public. Silver Clouds will be on loan from The Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, Pa., and will be open until Sunday, Oct. 20.
Artisphere is located at 1101 Wilson Blvd. Opening night will be from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m.
“This uplifting installation defies the traditional perceived constrictions of art,” the Artisphere press release announcing the event states, “as the Silver Clouds interact with the viewer and each other, inviting response and igniting a sense of wonder.”
The exhibition will be complemented by a series of public programs, including a commissioned dance piece and interactive workshop by Dance Exchange. Spanish new media artist Sergio Albiac will be creating a commissioned generative portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama inspired by Andy Warhol’s signature portraiture.
Photo courtesy of Brandon Pass and Artisphere
The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
At the State of the County breakfast hosted by the Arlington Chamber of Commerce, County Board Chairman Walter Tejada was asked pointedly about the heavy taxpayer subsidies going to the Artisphere.
The question noted that it cost roughly $40 in taxpayer subsidy for every visitor to the arts center. The question was asked in context of the arts center the board had promised would be ready to turn a profit by now.
As he was assuring those in attendance (again) that the Artisphere was on the cusp of profitability, Tejada wondered aloud what it cost taxpayers for every library card holder. The suggestion was that we are actually getting a good deal on the Artisphere compared to our libraries.
There are approximately 120,000 library cards for Arlington libraries, which have a budget of around $12.4 million. So, the correct answer to the question Tejada asked is around $100.
However, that is not really a fair comparison. The question related to each and every visit to the Artisphere requiring a $40 taxpayer subsidy. So, if we set aside the Tejada reference to library cards and look at library visits instead, the answer is completely different.
According to the County Board work sessions document for Fiscal Year 2013, the estimate was 2,041,288 patron visits to all the library branches this year at a taxpayer cost of $12,429,434. So, it costs taxpayers $6.09 per patron visit for the libraries. In other words, it costs nearly seven times more per patron to visit the Artisphere than it does for each visit to the library. This, of course, does not take into account all of the books that are checked out online and read on various e-readers and tablets. This would almost certainly drive the per “visit” cost down if accounted for in a similar way.
Tejada’s answer also compares the entire library system to one arts center and its cost. However, it is not our only line item of arts-related spending for the year. We could also add the per-patron cost of the $250,000 Signature Theater bailout. And, we could add the per visit cost for any programs sponsored by the nearly $2 million the County spends on Cultural Affairs. These numbers might bring the average cost down, or might drive it up.
Wherever the final per visit cost lands, the Artisphere’s “bang for the buck” is likely going to fall well short of the value our libraries provide. This is not to say the arts are not important to our community. However, the County Board Chairman offered little more than political spin in response to a valid question on a controversial project – a project on which the County Board continues to over-promise and under-deliver.
Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.