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Does Artisphere Need More Signs?

by ARLnow.com April 15, 2011 at 10:50 am 2,299 49 Comments

As we all know, signs are generally frowned upon in Arlington County. That’s why it takes a 22-page staff analysis and a vote by the county board to put some banners up around a construction fence.

But is part of the solution to the attendance woes at Artisphere are few prominently-placed signs telling people where it is?

Doug Galbi of the Ode Street Tribune thinks so. In a blog post entitled “Artisphere needs more signs,” Galbi says that many Rosslyn visitors may be unaware that the multi-million dollar cultural center even exists.

“Artisphere’s large revenue and visitor shortfall may be due in large part to lack of public awareness,” he writes. “Persons traveling through the busy intersection of Wilson Blvd. and Lynn St. could easily be unaware that they are less than 100 yards from the DC-area’s most inviting arts venue.”

Galbi suggests that signs pointing to Artisphere could be added to the Central Space to Central Space public square, across from the Rosslyn Metro. What do you think?

Flickr pool photo by Afagen

  • ArlingtonAaron

    Galbi is probably right, but I don’t think its just Artisphere: I know the Spectrum theater suffers from the same problem, as did the Newseum when it was there. Really, a comprehensive set of signs that would direct cars and pedestrians to Iwo Jima, the park, parking, Georgetown, the metro stop, and these features would probably help a lot.

    • Rosslynite

      I do not see Iwo Jima as part of Rosslyn, although geographically it is. Most tourists bus in and out and do not linger in Rosslyn. They need to get to the Jefferson Memorial next, after all.

  • Rosslynite

    Who actually “visits” Rosslyn except folks who work in the office buildings and commuters who ride the metro? Neither of these groups are likely to abandon their schedules for a trip to Artisphere. Is there any other tourist attraction in Rosslyn? Oh yeah, I forgot about Dark Star Park. This is not a problem that a bigger sign will fix.

    • RosRes

      Artisphere can become its own destination, not unlike the Kennedy Center, which is isolated and sits in the middle of a jumble of roads. I do think better signage and advertising would help. Also, they should be projecting interesting “art” onto the outside of the white dome 7 days a week. That would certainly catch people’s attention and curiosity. In the mean time, once the current and planned projects are done, Rosslyn will be a much better place with an actual retail core and more central housing. All this should eventually help Artisphere.

      If these things don’t go in to Rosslyn, then it will never improve.

      • Burger

        Sure, it COULD be the Kennedy Center if it had multiple shows, concerts and about 20 times bigger but, it’s not. So let’s not kid ourselves – signs or no signs no tourist wants to trek out to Arlington for what amounts to a 1 trick pony when they have the entire mall at their feet less than 1/2 mile away.

  • Thes

    Yes, Artisphere needs more/bettter signs. Rosslyn needs more nightlife. As a community we should not give up on Rosslyn, but see it as a place that can continue to make progress and eventually become a place worth visiting. Spectrum, Iwo Jima, it all needs improvement. Fortunately, however slowly, it all seems to be happening.

    Meanwhile the restaurant inside the Artisphere is not going to be staying open for dinner, except on special occasions. Big mistake. Also, it’s called “Here”.

  • SoCo Resident

    “CLOSED” should be the sign posted with an admission that this was a huge mistake. The County should not take any more major financial losses from this. The lunch-only “Here” and all the signs that money can buy aren’t going to save this fiasco. Closing is inevitable!

    • +1

    • JS

      Really? I’m not sure something that’s been open less than a year should be called a failure just yet. Give it time

      • You can’t polish a turd. Flush it now.

  • NOVApologist

    I agree with the “lack of exposure” comment. I work two blocks away and walk by the Artisphere at least twice a week and wasn’t aware it had opened until a few weeks ago.
    Their website also needs some serious work. For instance, Blue Velvet is playing on Wednesday April 27th. But when you click on “calendar” and then “April 27th” it does not appear. Burn To Shine is running from April 18 – May 15; however, I have yet to find a showtime for any day.
    Also, most of their events seem more geared toward locals than tourists.

  • CW

    Is this article a joke?

    Artisphere AND signs in the same headline?

    Next April fools, can you please post a universal Arlington stereotype article?

    I’m thinking: “Pizza and Burger Delivery Car Crashes into Illegal Sign in Front of Artisphere, Zimmerman Vows to Raise Funding for Homeless Shelter in Response”.

    • +Like.

    • Dan

      I have to admit that I too got a chuckle out of the thought that a couple of signs would fix this problem.

    • Lacey Forest

      You need to work cupcakes in there somewhere.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        “Pizza and Burger Delivery Car Crashes into Illegal Sign in Front of Artisphere, knocking over cupcake truck; meanwhile, Zimmerman Vows to Raise Funding for Walter Reed Drive Trolley in Response”

  • Arl_Bill

    And maybe the public doesn’t care. If I want to see art, I’ll go over to art museums on the mall. And what’s up with the “so called art” around Crystal City? Looks like they funded a team of five year olds.

    • Thes

      Actually, the art installations I’ve seen in Artisphere have actually been pretty interesting, decent-quality stuff. Worth going, especially on a night or weekend when the parking is free, even if Here is closed.

      The stuff on the Mall (except for special exhibitions) is the same stuff they’ve had there for the last 30+ years. There’s only so many times you can look at the same French Impressionist blur before it starts to wear a bit.

      • KathleenM

        I have to agree with Thes; some of the stuff has been great, but perhaps not really well-publicized. The Urban Arias were wonderful, and I saw some really funny, quirky films as part of the recent Jewish Film Festival hosted at the Artisphere last month.

  • John Fontain

    I cannot express how comforted I am in knowing that my tax dollars are being used efficiently and effectly by the County and aren’t being used for needless, over the top bureaucratic purposes such as a 22 page analysis of whether a construction site can hang a banner with the name of the project being built.

    • V Dizzle

      Wow, I’m glad you’re all for it.

  • Jim

    Signs aren’t the issue. I don’t know if Ray’s Hell Burger now has a sign or not but for the longest time they didn’t have any. But what they did have was a great product that everyone wanted. The Artisphere just hasn’t given people a good reason to want to visit.

    • OX4

      Exactly right. I don’t see a huge neon sign over the 9:30, but it’s packed every night.

  • Easton

    I am in complete shock at the 22-page staff report for those temporary construction banners. How much staff time went into preparing that report? Is that how things are typically handled by the City Planners?

  • charlie

    this thing has been a disaster from day one. The Newseum which had VERY deep pockets wasn’t financial successful either. The location just simply sucks. It would be cool if it were in place of Whole Foods in Clarendon…

    • No, it would still suck even in Clarendon.

  • Deebo

    Haha. Liberals are funny: Let’s spend this ‘revenue’ on….an ‘Artisphere’.

    • V Dizzle

      Another one?

    • cmg

      I’m not sure what this has to do with liberals.

    • OX4

      Is that you Steve?

    • Jimmy

      CMG, In case you didn’t realize, Arlington is run by the most left of the left. That means that the tax payer’s money is their money, as long as it “feels” right and is for a “good” cause. Artisphere is a joke.

  • OddNumber

    I disagree that more signs would help. If the venue business plan is to pull people in who walk nearby then sings might do it. However, they need to reach out to all of Arlington either through advertising or holding events that are noteworthy enough to catch word of mouth buzz. The ONLY place I have ever heard the name Artisphere is on ArlNow, which isn’t good for them given that most comments call it a waste of money.

    • charlie

      well someone on arlnow called it Fartisphere yesterday. I can’t stop laughing.

  • Stella

    Before pulling the plug on Artisphere, how about programming some FREE things that might appeal to a larger audience–film festivals, performances by musicians that people have heard of, goofy pop culture exhibits. For now, programs look expensive and too precious for all but the MFA crowd.

    • MMA match at the Aritisphere. I bet one night of MMA would generate more revenue then the rest of the year combined.

      • KalashniKEV

        Zimmie vs. Me… Vale Tudo.

  • Bender

    It is to laugh.

    Rosslyn is filled with all of these spirit-zapping concrete-and-glass highrises — purposely so — and they wonder why it is so lifeless.

    Really, what did they expect with their oh-so-wonderful urban hell?

  • Mike

    Signs might help a bit – it is somewhat hard-to-find if you are looking for it, and inconspicuous if you just happen to be walking by. Signs are also relatively cheap, so they should be tried before we give up on the Artisphere.

    But I think the fundamental problem is just that Roslyn in general, and the Artisphere location in particular, is not a very desirable place to hang out. The sidewalks are narrow and hilly, and the streets are laid out in an odd pattern that makes it hard to find your way. Driving and parking are a pain. Taking the metro is certainly an option, but then when you get to the station, you had to take the long escalator upstairs, figure out where the heck you are, and blunder your way around until you find what you are looking for. I have lived in north Arlington for 15 years and I still get lost when I go to Roslyn.

    • Valerie

      Free parking night and weekends, free admission to exhibits

      • eosacritic

        But I believe there IS free parking nights and weekends (you just have to make sure you get your ticket validated when you leave, not before, since it’s only good for 30 minus after the stamp). THAT’S what needs signs–since obviously no one knows about that.

  • LCDR Obvious

    I’m surprised this place is not doing as much business as the other art venues in Arlington

  • Artsy types who want to find the place will usually ask someone, or maybe even look around for a few blocks. Signs won’t help much.

  • labotome

    I visited the place and found it wanting for almost anything. The Mongolian exhibit was ok for Nepal but left me wanting to know who acquired it. The overall atmosphere of the place was null and void. Use the money for something else in Arlington.

  • 4Arl

    I wonder if the county should accelerate shifting the management and operations to an arts nonprofit. Provide some seed money and let other people who may have a chance give it a shot with a fresh perspective.

    • A source I’ve talked to in the arts management world says it was a BIG mistake not to launch without a clear plan to quickly hand over management to a nonprofit entity.

  • Michael H.

    I wouldn’t mind if they started out by “fixing” the sign in the picture above. The filled-in “P” and “R” is annoying. It looks like the sign builder ran out of time or didn’t feel like punching out the central section of those two letters.

    That wouldn’t solve the space’s problems but it shouldn’t take that long for a couple guys to go up there on ladders and fix those letters.

  • Charly

    I went to see an Urban Arias performance, and it was fantastic….definitely deserved to have a full house, but the venue was only half full. The question is how to get more people aware of the performances. I will continue to support the Artisphere. BTW I’m sick of all the whining that appears on this blog and for that reason have stopped reading it regularly. But then again, whine is what most commentators do on blogs.

    • Dan

      So I guess that you are whining about the whining and have decided to take to your ball and go home ??

  • KalashniKEV

    Hahaha… SoCo, for teh WIN! I can’t believe that one. Artisphere is not doing well for one simple reason- nobody wanted it. Why is it there? Who’s supposed to go to it? Who is responsible for this fiasco? I WANT MY MONEY BACK!!!


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