In precisely two months, Artisphere will end its five-year run, but it appears to be going out with a bang.
According to Artisphere Director of Marketing and Communications Barry Halvorson, most of Artisphere’s shows this spring have sold out. But then, he said, that’s not altogether a new phenomenon for the almost-five-year-old arts center.
“Over the last three years or so, we have really been hitting our stride,” Halvorson said. “We’re on track to come ahead slightly of last year. We’ve been performing to an average of 75 percent capacity. That’s above industry average.”
Despite the fact that Artisphere has consistently lost money every year of existence, Halvorson it’s been by all accounts a successful arts venture. He challenges the notion that the Artisphere is a $2.2-million-a-year sunk investment.
“You wouldn’t refer to the Kennedy Center as the ‘money-losing Kennedy Center’ when in fact it is the money-losing Kennedy Center,” Halvorson said. “Every arts organization in town is a money-losing venture… It’s almost a minor miracle that we’ve been able to really run it as well as we’ve been running it.”
Acting Artisphere Director Josh Stoltzfus said the venue has been able to achieve that by targeting international musicians and artists, catering to the D.C. area’s global diversity of heritage.
“In a lot of ways, international music has had a very strong track record in this market,” he said. “The larger Metro area, we have people from all over the world that live and work in this area, people either from all those countries or who were stationed there. We’re trying to reflect the community we serve.”
Artisphere has hosted acts like a controversial Ugandan play, Yiddish punk music, an eight-hour endurance performance and more than 100 belly-dancers. Its 62,000-square-foot space has caused sky-high utilities bills, but the unique venue has allowed performance-goers to see art installations before taking in the eclectic, international performers.
“We’ve really tried to become sort of the go-to presenter of international music in this market,” Halvorson said. “We’ve been largely successful in doing that.”
In the final two months, the venue’s remaining staff is not planning a big grand finale, but rather they will continue to put on shows most weeks; Halvorson said May will one of the busiest months they’ve ever had. Next Saturday, they will be screening a “live documentary” called the Measure of All Things in the Dome Theatre.
That documentary will be cued up and narrated on stage by its Academy Award-Nominated Director Sam Green, and will be accompanied by a live band. The documentary will focus on the lives of people in the Guinness Book of World Records, like the world’s tallest man and the world’s longest hair.
“That’s a great example of programs that is sort of representative of what Artisphere presents,” Halvorson said. “It’s difficult to describe and boil down, but that’s what we’re doing.”
Linda Hesh, the artist who installed a piece of art when Artisphere opened, called “Art Every Day” will return for another installation this spring that will take pieces of art tied to the venue and spread them across the community. After that, the doors will lock and the county will decide what comes next for the space.
“While it’s true that they physical building is closing,” Stoltzfus said, “the ideas that Artisphere has put forth in the community will last for the years to come.”
File photo courtesy Artisphere
Arts Center Gets Warhol Grant — The Arlington Arts Center has received a $70,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. “Funding from the Foundation will increase AAC’s capacity to support and present the work of new artists and spur the development of new initiatives and exhibitions,” AAC said in a press release. “Programming support of this scale makes new programs possible, like one for rising curators, while also furthering the ongoing work of the arts center.”
Bicycle Billboard Towers Sought — The Washington Area Bicyclist Association and BikeArlington are seeking bike ambassadors for a safety campaign. Volunteers will ride around Arlington while towing a large, wheeled billboard that tells drivers to pass bikes with at least three feet of space. The sign also encourages all road users to be predictable, alert and lawful. [WABA]
Arlington Couple Get Baby Wish Times Three — The Washington Post’s “This Life” feature profiles an Arlington couple who had trouble conceiving a child when, all of a sudden, fate blessed them with three via various means. [Washington Post]
Voting Machines May Go Old School — As part of a state-wide switch, Arlington election officials are considering replacing all touch screen voting machines with digital optical scan machines in time for the 2016 presidential election. The new machines will utilize what is fundamentally an old-school voting method: scanning paper ballots, which then leaves a paper trail for recounts. [InsideNova]
Jane Goodall to Speak at Marymount Benefit — Famed primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall will speak at a benefit event for Arlington’s Marymount University this spring. The event is taking place at DAR Constitution Hall on Friday, April 17. Ticket proceeds will “help establish a fund at Marymount that will enhance the work of volunteerism and community engagement.” [Marymount University]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Artisphere is very likely to close on June 30, barring a change of heart from the majority of the Arlington County Board, and while many agree with the Board’s decision, the local art scene is lamenting the loss.
Artisphere — with multiple theaters for programming of everything from local orchestras to international groups with experimental sounds and galleries for its free visual art displays — will continue operating as planned, Executive Director Jose Ortiz said.
“The show must go on,” he told ARLnow.com yesterday. “It was definitely a disappointing decision … We have programs that are planned and on the books, from exhibitions and performances to rentals. The items that are on the books must continue.”
ARLnow.com’s unscientific poll yesterday asked readers if they agreed with County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation to close Artisphere at the end of the fiscal year. Some 57 percent of poll respondents — out of nearly 3,000 votes — said they agree with the decision. Ortiz said he didn’t necessarily disagree with it.
“Barbara said it. This was a business decision,” he said.
Some critics of the move are calling it “short-sighted,” alluding to the multimedia center’s uptick in both revenues and visitors in the past year or more. Donnellan said the theater would require $2 million or more per year to stay open, but vowed to continue the revitalization efforts in Rosslyn.
“In an era when communities throughout the country and especially in the D.C. area have used arts and culture to successfully revitalize neighborhoods, Donnellan’s recommendation to close the county’s most vital cultural asset is both shocking and remarkably short-sighted,” wrote Phil Hutinet, editor of D.C. arts website East City Art.
Ortiz started at Artisphere four months after it opened to lots of hype and hope the it would be revenue neutral. He said he would have “helped people understand what Artisphere was” if he had been involved from the beginning. Still, he said, he’s proud of the four years of programming the center has showcased.
“My hope is people will remember us because they were part of a project or they attended something here that blew their minds,” he said.
A full statement from Oritz on Artisphere’s closing, after the jump: (more…)
NBC4 ‘Celebrates’ Arlington — NBC4 reporter Angie Goff anchored a series of segments about Arlington this morning. Goff broadcast live from Bob & Edith’s Diner on Columbia Pike, and had a number of on-air guests. One segment — “celebrating romance in Arlington” — featured a bartender from Carpool in Ballston, County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes and a rousing game of cornhole. [NBC Washington]
Neighbors Remember Boy Killed By Car — Neighbors are remembering 8-year-old Ashlawn Elementary School student Eli Sachar, who was killed over the weekend when he and other family members were struck by a car in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. No charges have been filed against the driver so far, though the crash remains under investigation. [WJLA]
Arlington Teens Injured in Charlottesville Stabbing — Two 19-year-old men from Arlington were stabbed in Charlottesville Saturday night. The victims were both visiting friends at UVA for the weekend. A witness said the incident started when someone threw a beer can in the direction of the two suspects. [NBC 29]
Board to Consider Art Grants — The Arlington County Board this weekend is set to consider nearly $200,000 in art grants. The Arlington Commission for the Arts has recommended the grants be distributed to 20 different local recipients. [Arlington County]
Bus Lights Bush on Fire — Firefighters responded to the Exxon station at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Rhodes Street in Rosslyn yesterday for a report of a bush on fire. The fire was quickly extinguished, though a section of bush was denuded by the combination of flames and high water pressure. The fire was caused when a bus backed into the bush and the heat from the engine caused the shrubbery to combust. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber
A failed restaurant. An impressive drain pipe. A popular home renovation.
These are some of the humorous and true observations of extremely local history that artist Timothy Thompson has turned in to a series of historical markers in and around the Arlington Arts Center (3550 Wilson Blvd) in Virginia Square.
Thompson’s historical markers are part of the Arlington Arts Center’s 2012 Fall Solos exhibition, which opened on Oct. 3 and features works by seven regional artists. The exhibit is set to hold its opening reception on Saturday (Oct. 20) from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.
Four of Thompson’s markers are located inside the gallery. Two are within two blocks of the center on N. Lincoln Street. Another is adjacent to the center along Wilson Boulevard.
Thompson will be leading a walking tour of his historical markers from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1. The Fall Solos exhibit will be in place through Dec. 23.
(Updated at 2:10 p.m.) Four months after the sudden departure of Artisphere Director of Programming Rosanna Ruscetti, the county-run cultural center in Rosslyn has a new programming director.
Josh Stoltzfus, 39, has been named Artisphere’s new Director of Programming. He faces the daunting task of attracting programming that will bring more people to Artisphere, which has been suffering from a lack of consistent attendance and continued financial losses that have necessitated increased taxpayer support.
Stoltzfus’ music-centric resume includes roles as the tour manager for The Holmes Brothers, production coordinator at Wolf Trap and, most recently, programming manager for the Columbia Festival of the Arts. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Berklee College of Music and a graduate degree in Arts Management from American University, according to his LinkedIn page.
On Twitter, Artisphere said it was “thrilled” to announce the hiring of Stoltzfus, whose “passion for the arts is perfect for us.” The cultural center also issued the following press release.
Artisphere has named Josh Stoltzfus as its new Director of Programming. Stoltzfus brings more than 16 years of performing arts experience working in creative, programmatic and administrative positions. Stoltzfus has extensive programming experience collaborating with performing artists and their representatives, as well as expert knowledge of American music, specializing in jazz, blues and popular music, with advanced knowledge of other major artistic disciplines including dance, theatre, comedy and the visual arts.
“We are thrilled to welcome Josh to the Artisphere team,” says José Ortiz, Executive Director of Artisphere. “His diverse experience and passion for the arts is the perfect blend for Artisphere.”
Stoltzfus joins Artisphere from the Columbia Festival of the Arts in Columbia, MD, where he spent the last five years planning strategic partnerships and working with the team on selection of artists, program content and budgeting for an annual sixteen day multidisciplinary arts festival. He previously worked with the Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts and spent a graduate fellowship with the Cyrus & Myrtle Katzen Arts Center and Harold & Sylvia Greenberg Theatre at American University. Stoltzfus also brings experience as an artist representative, tour manager and more than two decades’ experience as a musical performer.
“I am incredibly pleased to be a part of the Artisphere team,” said Stoltzfus. “Arlington is quickly becoming known as a hub of cultural activity. I am eager to engage Artisphere audiences with innovative and thought-provoking art in all disciplines.”
Photo courtesy Artisphere
Wild Animals Rescued During Hurricane — Given this week’s weather, Hurricane Irene is increasingly looking like a brief summer rain shower. Nonetheless, the hurricane created a dangerous situation for humans and animals alike. Animal control officers from the Animal Welfare League of Arlington rescued more than 20 wild animals during the storm, mostly baby squirrels. [Washington Post]
Defense Contractor Moving HQ to Arlington — Defense contractor ATK is moving its headquarters from Minneapolis to Rosslyn. The move will only affect the top brass at the company, however. Fewer than 10 employees, mostly executives, are expected to make the move. [DefenseNews]
Arlington Man Found Dead in N.J. — Arlington resident David C. Williams, 47, was found slumped over in the driver’s seat of his car in Woodbine, N.J. on Wednesday. Foul play is not suspected. [Shore News Today]
Arlington Arts Center Happy Hour — The Arlington Arts Center will be starting its series of fall happy hours on Thursday, Sept. 15. [Clarendon Nights]
Flickr photo courtesy of Brendan L.
Board Awards Nearly Quarter Million to Arts Orgs — On Saturday the County Board voted to approve 25 grants, worth $249,077, to Arlington-based arts organizations. “Arlington has a thriving, vibrant, diverse arts community that brings not only economic benefit, but cultural enrichment, diversity and joy to our County,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement. The top grantees, at $44,625.14 apiece, are Signature Theater and Synetic Theater. [Arlington County]
Board Adopts Inventory of Historic Properties — The County Board has voted to adopts a list of nearly 400 Arlington properties deemed ‘historic.’ Each property on the list was assigned a ranking from “essential” to “minor.” While officials say the inventory is an important step in the preservation process, inclusion on the list doesn’t prohibit owners from making “by-right” changes to their property. [Sun Gazette]
Free Slurpees Today — In celebration of its “birthday” today — on 7/11/11 — 7-Eleven stores are offering a free 7.11 ounce Slurpee to customers while supplies last. The company hands out an average of about 1,000 free Slurpees per store. There are at least twenty 7-Eleven stores in Arlington.
Flickr pool photo by BrianMKA
Arlington County residents voiced their opinions about the newly-released ‘Arlington Arts 2030′ report Monday night.
About two dozen people showed up at the Shirlington Library to respond to draft recommendations put forth by the Arlington Commission for the Arts and its consultants regarding the future of the county’s arts scene. A previous proposal was developed in the 1990s, and the Commission is seeking a new plan to outline the next 20 years.
Arlington Arts Commission Chair John Seal explained that the proposal assumes the county will continue its current push toward urbanization. He said additional venues, funding and availability of arts is necessary to keep up with the trend.
Angie Fox, president of the Crystal City Business Improvement District, expressed concern — not necessarily with an increase in arts funding, but with the overall focus of the commission. Fox believes, for instance, that the commission should not concern itself with what it doesn’t necessarily excel at, like facilities management. She also takes issue with the proposed allocation of money.
“There’s no real new mission statement,” Fox said. She believes the commission report fostered the attitude of “let’s just give money to the same things we’ve been doing.”
This resonated with others in the group, who believed shifting around funds could be more effective than outright requesting more. Nikki Hoffpauir, Board President for The Arlington Players theater company, pointed out that it’s not just money falling victim to mismanagement, but underused facilities as well.
“There are ways you could use what you already have to help us better,” she said.
As officials continue trying to stem the tide of red ink at Artisphere, Arlington’s new arts and cultural center, the Arlington Commission for the Arts sees the need for more art venues down the road.
The commission and its consultants have just released a draft copy of “Arlington Arts 2030,” a report that proposes “a long-range strategy for supporting the arts over the next 20 years.”
The report recommends that the county “pro-actively and steadily move… [from] supporting the arts in a manner appropriate for a suburban community to one of building the arts to support the growing urban community that Arlington is today.” To that end, the report recommends increased investment in the arts, art facilities and the artists themselves.
Among the draft recommendations:
- Offer low cost or affordable housing specifically for use by artists
- New “public arts spaces” in Crystal City, Shirlington and the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor
- Public funding (both bonds and “pay go”) to supplement funds from developers to help build already-proposed projects like a black box theater in Virginia Square, a replacement theater for the 1960s-era Spectrum Theater in Rosslyn and a new cultural center at Courthouse Plaza
- A new, dedicated facility for dance performances
- An outdoor amphitheater in the Shirlington/Four Mile Run area
- Increase the annual art grant budget from approximately $250,000 to $350,000 over five years
- Set aside 2 percent of the county’s Capital Improvement Program budget for public art projects
- Spin off the county’s art-centric Cultural Affairs division (currently funded at $2.15 million per year) as its own department, separate from the Parks Department
- Increase the Cultural Affairs marketing budget and emphasize Arlington as a “cultural destination”
Two hearings will be held to gather public input on the report. The first will be held at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) from noon to 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 11. The second will be held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, June 13, at the Shirlington Public Library (4200 Campbell Avenue).
Currently, according to county officials, there are ten individual, publicly-accessible theaters in Arlington, each of which receives some sort of county support. That’s in addition to one county-run outdoor amphitheater. There are also 15 individual visual arts galleries in Arlington, six of which are managed or curated by the Cultural Affairs Division. Two of the theaters and three of the galleries are within Artisphere.
Public Forum on Proposed Pike Streetcar — A public meeting will be held tonight to discussed the proposed Columbia Pike/Crystal City streetcar. The meeting will be held from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Walter Reed Community Center (2909 16th Street South). We’ve heard from a few streetcar critics who plan on attending the meeting. They might be surprised to learn that their sentiments aren’t shared by Gov. Bob McDonnell, who told WTOP that Arlington is doing “a good job” with the streetcar project.
Capitol City Brewing Co. Expanding in Shirlington — After losing the lease on its Capitol Hill location, Capitol City Brewing is planning on moving its brewing operations to Shirlington. The company is taking over an adjacent property to enable the expansion, which will make it one of the 10 largest brewpubs in the County. More from Shirlington Village Blog.
Comic Art Show Debuts Tomorrow — Are comic books art? That question will be answered tomorrow, when the Arlington Arts Center debuts its latest show. Party Crashers will feature “fine artists who mimic the appearance of comic art.” More from Clarendon Nights.
George Mason Drive Reopens — George Mason Drive has reopened near Virginia Hospital Center. It was closed for most of the day yesterday, following a powerful storm that knocked over trees and snapped power lines.
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
Arlington County and the Rosslyn Business Improvement District held a press conference today to show off Arlington’s nearly-completed cultural center, Artisphere. The venue is a centerpiece of the effort to revitalize the workaday Rosslyn business district.
The $6.7 million, 62,000 square foot facility will open to the public on Sunday — 10/10/10 — at 10:10 a.m. A ritzy opening gala ($250 per ticket) will be held Friday night, while a hipper, cheaper “second opening” sponsored by Pink Line Project and Brightest Young Things will be held Saturday night.
Within Artisphere are three theaters, three formal exhibit spaces, a multi-use ballroom, an expansive outdoor terrace, a bar/restaurant (which is currently lacking a tenant), a two-level Wi-Fi lounge, and a retails crafts store.
The theaters include the 350-seat Dome Theater, a repurposed Imax venue; a 200-seat black box theater that will be the new home of the Washington Shakespeare Company; and the existing, adjacent 367-seat Spectrum theater.
The terrace will be used for openings and for private events, especially during the warmer weather months. The Wi-Fi lounge will be open to anyone who wants to hang out, get work done or get food or drinks from the restaurant. (We’re told the bidders looking to manage the restaurant space include several well-known local restaurateurs.)
If you must drive, parking garages under Artisphere and the Spectrum theater offer about 300 spaces that will be free after 6:00 p.m. weekdays and all day on weekends.
Those who crave the limelight take note: a reality show camera crew from TLC will reportedly be at Saturday’s opening event. They’re following a balloon artist who will have three elaborate exhibits on display.
More photos after the jump.
Arlington officials took select members of the media (read: not us) on a hard hat tour of the still under-construction Artisphere last night.
In her write-up of the tour, the Washington Post’s Jacqueline Trescott is skeptical of the county’s ability to finish the project in time for its scheduled October 10 opening.
Trescott then describes Artisphere’s effort to attract a younger demographic. Among the plans for getting 20-to-45-year-olds to participate in the arts: dancing.
Built into the programming, [Arlington cultural affairs chief Norma] Kaplan said, will be opportunities for interaction with the artists. “We are trying to attract audiences that normally don’t come into a cultural center,” she said. One idea is to have late-night dances, with regional bands, on the weekends.
The ballroom will have regular nights for salsa, swing and social dance, and Kaplan said she expected it to draw a crowd. “There will be live music 90 percent of the time. Dance is very popular in this area, but there aren’t a lot of ballrooms,” she said, describing the retractable bandstand as a “Murphy bed stage” in what is believed to be the second-largest dance floor in the area after Glen Echo Park.
Read more from the Washington Post.
In addition to voting on outdoor seating proposals for American Flatbread and Screwtop Wine Bar, the County Board will considering some proposals with far-reaching consequences.
The board will vote on an initial framework for the East Falls Church development plan, which has attracted quite a bit of controversy. The plan could pave the way for the construction of apartment buildings, retail spaces and other dense, pedestrian-friendly development in what is now a much more single-family-home-oriented area.
Another item under consideration would result in the construction of a new entrance to the Rosslyn Metro station . The $32-35 million dollar project was originally meant to take place concurrent to the construction of the Rosslyn Central Place development, but the development has stalled due to financial complications.
A $159 million bond referendum is also under consideration. The board will decide whether to put the bond issue on the ballot in November. The bonds would fund construction of a new Wakefield High School as well as various Metro, transportation, park and infrastructure projects.
Other items of interest include votes on $249,077 in arts grants, more than $750,000 in equipment for the new Artisphere, and whether to schedule a hearing on a proposal to protect six trees from removal on private property.