Report Recommends Increased Arts Investment in Arlington

by ARLnow.com June 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm 3,941 74 Comments

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.

  • Clarendude

    What Arlington needs to find is private benefactors. We are a wealthy, metropolitan area and there seems to be very little in the way of cultural facilities that are named after some wealthy family or corporation. Perhaps that is because DC gets all that largess, or some other reason?

    • Bluemontsince1961

      I agree, Clarendude.

  • CW

    Of course the Arts Commission sees a need for increased investment in the arts!!! And the Parks department wants more parks, most likely. When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. What a non-story.

    • doodly

      It’s still a story even if it’s not surprising.

  • Confused

    “Arlington Commission for the Arts” thinks we need more money for the arts, huh? Shocker. Did anyone expect them to say otherwise?

    Next, maybe the county could commission Comcast to study whether Comcast should have its franchise agreement renewed.

    • MayorOfWestover

      I know, what a self-serving bunch or recommendations.

      This, if for no other reason, is why we need some Republicans on the County Board. There are no checks and balances in this county.

  • JamesE

    “artist” get low cost housing? seriously? I am pretty good and photoshopping people into compromising situations can I get my mortgage cut in half?

  • Arrrrrlington

    All this report says is SPEND SPEND SPEND. Please support our lifestyle choice with your hard earned cash!

    I agree with Clarendude, there needs to be more private benefactors and less spending of public funds.

  • SoCo Resident

    Holy Whatever. Artisphere is losing $1 million per year, now lets compound that. These arts people are truly, truly from out space. I am afraid this will turn people into Tea Party members. Time to stop this totally.

    • Failed Again

      I agree! I’m an opponent of the Artisphere because it is a money pit. There is so much other, more important resources that need funding. Close this place!

  • Dan

    I wonder how much the consultants were paid ??
    Why were consultants needed for this ??

  • Arlwhenever

    An “investment” includes things like assets in a 401K, building a factory that’s used to build goods that people are willing to pay for, or advancing one’s earning potential early in life through education. An “investment” is not spending money on pet program uneccesaries. If the elites want art, buy tickets to performances, purchase artworks or contribute to arts programs. But don’t use the police power of the state to reach into other people’s pockets to satiate artistic tastes. And please, start using the word investment properly.

    • doodly

      See definition 3.


      1. The action or process of investing money for profit or material result

      2. A thing that is worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future

      3. An act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result

      • PhilL

        Definition 3 works for me. Because it does not mention money.

        • doodly

          But you could apply it to money too. You could call paying for your kid’s college education an “investment” for instance.

          • PhilL

            No, your definition hit it right on the head. No money. Thanks for posting that.

          • doodly

            So if someone said “paying for your kid’s college is a good investment in her future” you’d say that was a completely wrong way of using the word? I don’t think you would.

          • TooEasy

            Why go to school if you can get subsidized housing to draw/paint/basket weave?

          • doodly


          • PhilL

            No, I was referring to definition 3, as you did, which does not mention paying for anything. I agree with your point, Arlington should pursue that definition of investing in the arts. Thanks again for looking up that definition and referencing it. You made a great point, investing can be done without money.

      • Arlwhenever

        Its devoting YOUR time or money to the same, not taking it out of someone elses pocket, that is more commonly known as theft.

        • CW

          So stop stealing from my pocket to send all those rich families’ kids to fancy-pants high schools like W-L. I don’t even have any kids. Thief.

          • doodly

            I heard the even do art at those fancy-pants schools. They put on plays and have choruses and paint and stuff. Socialists.

          • CW

            Yeah, my tax dollars should only go to the exact government functions that I wish to utilize, and they should be prorated on a by-use basis, not just spent across the board on “social” programs that benefit the “community” that those darn commies are always talking about…

            (I hope people realize that this is sarcasm)

          • South Arlington

            I can’t wait for Arlwhenever to contribute to my tax refund check for not having kids and forcing all Arlington residents to take on the burden of their socialist education.

        • madisonmanor

          Except that it’s not just someONE else’s pocket. Based on the 4-year residential tax average reported last week or so on ARLnow, it takes the tax revenue of over 4 houses in Arlington for each student in Arlington Schools. Oh, wait – maybe it was three houses’ worth and one restaurant’s unpaid meals tax – or maybe it was only two houses’ worth, one restaurant’s unpaid meals tax and 10 illegal towing fees. But that’s without factoring in the additional Artisfail losses. Thank goodness for the extra beer garden entertainment tax to offset that. Maybe they could just tax the dog mural art in Shirlington and it would all just pay for itself. . .

  • As a dance artist (who, yes, has a day job, and yes, pays a normal-sized rent), I would LOVE to see more performance opportunities in Arlington.

    I do absolutely 100% of my class-taking, rehearsing and performing in D.C.

    I would love to save the gas money, convince my D.C.-living friends Virginia is cool, and give Arlington some of the money I spend on food for after-performance social events.

    (I’ve also paid a lootttt in parking tickets in D.C. for all these dance events – here’s a way to make money, Arlington!)

    • John Fontain

      ” I would LOVE to see more performance opportunities in Arlington.”

      The performance opportunities are already endless. Go outside on a street corner or to a metro station and begin to dance. Do this everyday if you wish.

      • Failed Again

        Agree! Opportunities are endless, it’s not our fault no one goes…if the attendance is any reflection of Arlingtonians interest.. the county should take a hint! Dance…dance…revolution.

  • Only if ART = Arlington Transit

    • Bluemontsince1961

      +10, OB!

  • Horrible ideas

    I’m stunned. We spend $2.5M on cultural affairs? I love arts and culture too, but we’re right across the river from the Kennedy Center. And the rest of DC.

    And we need that money for new schools, road projects–things that residents actually NEED.

    • Bluemontsince1961


    • doodly

      So we don’t need any restaurants, bars, shopping centers or any of that either, because they’re in DC too, right?

      I’m not defending the public expenditures, just saying the idea that we should completely ignore the arts because we can all just go to the KenCen is lame.

      • We all like to go to stadiums, but Northern VA doesn’t have any. That’s because they don’t hand out taxpayer money for them like DC and MD have done. So, when economic times are tough, should taxpayer money be used for a stadium? Should it be used to further the arts? Or, should it be used for infrastructure? If you had to pick one, which would it be? I’d meet you at the library to discuss it, but they’ve cut the hours….

        • doodly

          Stadiums is a bad comparison. Of course we are only going to have a few of those in a metro area.

          Libraries – there’s another good comparison. We don’t need libraries, we can just go to DC.

          • Confused

            Actually, your mention of “restaurants, bars, shopping centers” was the worst comparison. Those are private entities that have to stand on their own or go out of business.

            The objection I think most people here have is to the use of public funds to support an “enterprise” like the Artisphere, which has yet to demonstrate that it’s viable without bleeding the public coffers.

            Perhaps there’s just not enough demand for the arts in Arlington, no matter how much tax money gets thrown at it. I like art. But I’ve also been doing fine in the county for the last several years without egregious public spending on it.

          • doodly

            I already explained that I wasn’t talking about the public investment part. I was only objecting to the idea that we don’t need art because we can just all go over the river for it.

          • Horrible ideas

            OK, doodly, then by your logic, why not have an art center in each of the 30 or so neighborhoods in Arlington?

            We’re five miles from a whole city full of art museums, some of which are free. And the Kennedy Ctr. We don’t need $2.5 million spent on art centers here. The Artisphere proves that there is very limited public demand for this.

            At a time when tax assessments keep rising, when the county keeps raising water/sewer rates, when our schools are packed, our roads crowded–this is the last thing we need to be blowing money on.

          • South Arlington

            Doodly, I don’t see the harm in leveraging off of our DC/Federal neighbor. I’m not anti-art, I just think if DC and the Federal Government is going to build and maintain genuinely world class facilities within 5 miles of most of Arlington, why not take advantage of it, save us some tax assessments, and focus our taxes on things that are bonafide County requirements. Same reasoning I used in arguing against continuing to fund the subpar planeterium when the Air and Space planeterium is literally next door.

          • doodly

            Jeez, all I did was say we shouldn’t completely ignore art just because we’re across from DC. Both of you have great points.

          • Failed Again

            Libraries…not a good comparison. Arlington libraries rule…Artisphere sucks!

  • NorArlington

    There is no way I would want my tax dollars being spent to subsides low cost or affordable housing for artists. Being an artist is fine and having a little culture is fine, but I shouldn’t have to foot the bill for an artists housing or anyones for that matter. You choose your lifestyle, you get what comes with it.

    • TooEasy

      Suppose it was a Mime?

      • Mime

        🙂 🙁 😮

    • Smith

      DO you realize that you can walk into any commercial gallery or non-profit gallery and view work for FREE?

      It costs money to buy those expensive art supplies and find the time and space to make that work, to market the work, to apply to shows with entry fees, but you get to enjoy it for FREE!

      It costs money to heat and cool those great spaces, to maintain them, to pay the staff, to clean the space, etc. but you can enjoy them for FREE!

      Perhaps others don’t want to support your lifestyle of being a commuter or paying taxes so your kids can go to school? Maybe you are a smoker that will eat up taxpayer dollars with your inevitable Medicare costs, the pollution you create, etc. Maybe you are fat and unhealthy and others will have to subsidize your healthcare. Maybe you are a Bush conservative, so glad others could support your wars. The list goes on.

      Of course the report will encourage more arts spending. Keep in mind it’s already a FACT that for every dollar spent on the arts, you get $11 back (just think, people going to exhibits and shows use transit, buy gas, pay for dinner, pay parking tickets, buy ice cream after, adn sometimes but rarely buy art, etc.) It’s a no brainer win win.

  • TooEasy

    Get the Fiddle out and watch the fire.

  • ArlingtonCountyTaxpaer

    so they want to build a new “outdoor” cultural facility in Shirlington along the banks of the Four Mile Run? Why can’t they just fix Lubber Run? It is only a mile away.

    • South Arlington

      They are fixing Lubber Run already. It’s not “only a mile away”. I’d rather go to an event at a Shirlington outdoor ampitheater than the outdated, mosquito infested Lubber Run facility. Why keep Lubber Run at all if the County is going to insist on building this new ampitheater?

      • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

        Yes, they finally agreed to fix Lubber Run. But what about Gulf Branch? And the new park on 395? We keep building stuff but not finding the revenue stream to maintain.
        Why build a new facility when we can renovate what we have?
        As for geography, Lubber Run feeds into Four Mile Run. I’m pretty sure mosquito’s will be just as good in Four Mile Run.
        and you are right, it is actually 3 miles. still “close” by my book.

        • South Arlington

          Please, like that portion of Four Mile Run can sustain life.

        • Newtdog

          You both make valid points in my book……..but the mosquito’s will win every time.

  • TuesdaysChild

    They want to waste money “marketing” arlington as a cultural destination? Total waste. No more money on marketing, consultants for the arts, or the arts in general.

    •Increase the Cultural Affairs marketing budget and emphasize Arlington as a “cultural destination”

  • MC

    Many people look at the arts in a rather parochial way. Arlington generally lacks things to do – the arts offer things to do. When people have events to go to, they go out to eat here, instead of the District. This generates tax revenues to Arlington County. They spend more in nearby shops. It encourages tourists to stay here, to spend an extra day here, all generating hotel tax revenues. It makes businesses more interested in locating here, if there is somewhere for employees to go after work. For all the criticism of the Artisphere, no one seems interested in noting that there is significant private funds from Rosslyn property owners going to the Artisphere. They, unlike some commenters, realize that arts can generate economic activity that is beneficial to all.

    • TGEoA

      Horse crap.

      Rosslyn property owners got the old shake down from Fissette and cronies. They chalked it up to the cost of doing business rather than your naive notion of the arts will bring in tangible benefits.

    • Westover

      If one can not find things to do in Arlington, they need to leave their house once in a while.

  • Arlington, Northside

    Good Grief, the Arts Commission is pretty self-serving with this “report”. We have outstanding art museums and art schools across the river, the Corcran and National Gallery of Art to just name the biggest. Within walking distance of the county line even. There is no need for Arlington to spend money on anything other than arts in the Public Schools. If someone wants to donate art for the walls of our public buildings, as long as they are not in bad taste, I say great. But, County dollars should not be spent on any “recommendation” in that “report” except maybe the amphitheater idea. If art space really brings in the visitors, some entrepreneur will step up and build something on their own when the time is right.

  • Arlanon

    I have one word for these comments: Luddites.

    • Blueloom

      + 1000

  • Local1

    Pave my streets and then we’ll talk arts.

  • John Andre

    In the Artisphere’s favor…the building is the former Newseum…seems that building would sit around abandoned without the Artisphere occupying it.

    On the other hand…I’ve never been to one of their Wednesday night dances…the usual Tuesday night Clarendon Ballroom swing dances are more convenient to public transportation [ART 41]. I’ve been using Metro far less frequently…the trains are notoriously off schedule, continually plagued by “track maintenance” shutdowns, and becoming more expensive [for shoddier service!] all the time…plus there are those attacks by roving youth gangs.

  • Phartsy

    MC actually has a point about EVENTS, such as concerts by established performers, bringing in other spending–mostly on meals.

    The problem with the Artisphere (and with every other art forum in the county) is that it’s not stuff that many people will pay good money to see.

    People don’t want some stupid avant garde dance BS. They don’t want to look at some cat lady’s unschooled paintings. They WILL pay to see actual professional performers–the ones who perform at any of the smaller venues in DC, such as Warner Theater, National Theater, 6th & I Synagogue, State Theater in Falls Church, Black Cat, etc. Why not retool the Fartisphere to compete with those?

    This idea that we should pay for underemployed art wannabees to live here is offensive. Van Gogh lived in poverty to achieve greatness. The least they can do is live in Woodbridge till they make it.

    Or–here’s an idea–support themselves with a real job like the rest of us, and do the art on the weekends. And if they really are the next Keith Haring, someone will notice.

    • Arts Observer

      You are actually quite wrong about this, Phartsy. I can’t speak for every event at the Artisphere, but I know some of the groups that use the facility are fully professional and among the best in the region for what they do: I’m talking about UrbanArias, the region’s newest opera company and the Washington Shakespeare Company. Let’s look just at the former.

      UrbanArias initial festival season in April featured world-class singers, including Metropolitan Opera soprano Elizabeth Futral and tenor Michael Chioldi, among other nationally known signers, in DC-area premieres of three contemporary operas. The Washington Post raved about Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice, and put it among the best offerings in the DC area. Anne Midgette said: “Everyone who loves music should experience major musicians up close at least once. There’s a huge difference between hearing an operatic soprano sing Violetta on the stage of the Kennedy Center Opera House — as Elizabeth Futral did last year — and hearing her sing in a small room only a few feet away from you so that the vibrations of her voice resonate through your own body.” Her conclusion: “[Orpheus] is as fine a way to spend an hour as you can find in the District today — and a good augury for a new presence on the local vocal scene.”

      Just because the Artisphere puts on a variety of things, from salsa dances, to parties, to visual arts, doesn’t mean there isn’t some really compelling performances going on there. There are. See for yourself.

      • kevin

        I also think it’s worth mentioning that, yes, we have great, world-class museums in DC. BUT, that’s for great, world-class artists. As a consumer, I’ll admit that’s a huge draw. However, in the abstract, supporting arts are pretty cheap. Even a million for Artisphere is pretty cheap, and either subsidizing an art-development center (aka Torpedo Factory) or just buying art from artists and making it public is a pretty good bargain at increasing the quality of life in this (admit it, pretty darn nice) town. And true, you may not personally like it, (and I may not like it either), but it goes along with schools (I don’t have kids, but I don’t mind paying the taxes to fund great schools) and other things like that to make a community worth living in.

        Now, it seems the Artisphere suffers greatly from a lack of exposure – that’s a tough neighborhood to get visibility in, especially since that block is basically just an onramp for 110.

        • Westover

          And you have the Torpedo Factory right down the Parkway, do we really need another so close? If you really think so, let’s see how the BRAC thing turns out in a couple of years, maybe we will have a few buildings that will make sense to occupy with artists. Talking about schools, using the millions dumped into the Artisphere to hire more teachers of the arts in our schools would have been a much better long term investment.

          • Observer

            Well, Torpedo Factory does not have any performing arts space, and that is sorely needed. There really are very few theater spaces available in this area for classical performance, and not many good live music spaces at all in Northern Virginia, other than the Birchmere (I’m not talking about bars that host live music, in which I include places like the great Iota). I agree with you that there are competing Arlington priorities — we really need a new elementary school or two to accommodate overcrowding.

            IMHO, its when times are tough that affordable access to the arts is that much more important. The last opera I went to at the Kennedy Center was $150 per ticket in the second balcony. This spring a ticket for UrbanArias contemporary opera festival cost about what the Kennedy Center charges for PARKING. What an awesome opportunity for those who attended!

  • Skeptical

    Will someone explain the infatuation with dance? I am regularly brought to tears by opera, plays, and symphonic or chamber performances, but whenever Arlington talks about arts, it always seems to come back to some bunch of preening look-at-me’s prancing around and pretending it has some sort of deep meaning.

    As for subsidized housing for artists, that is flat out nuts. I am way behind public support for the kind of arts education that will help young people develop artistic skills during their school years, inside or outside the public school system — that is how we get people to college age with some assurance that they can make a life in the arts. And the people delivering that arts education would be adult working artists; that is how the public dollar is best spent supporting them. But housing money? What is the criterion? I have seen someone weld a television antenna to a Weber grill and say it made some sort of statement about modern man’s relationship to technology, and no way does that deserve my tax dollar to house the artist, even though the dingdong thing was shown in the local gallery.

    • dance is cool

      Yeah, I used to think the same thing until I actually went to a dance performance recently and was blown away. I thought dance was the most boring thing ever until then. I guess that’s exactly why we need arts, here.

      • TGEoA

        Glad you like dance. Now pay for it out of your own pocket or buy me a movie ticket.

        • kevin

          TGEoA –
          If you really find public art expenditures that offensive, you can always move to someplace where the taxes are lower than here.

  • SamsontheCat

    The problem with their proposals are that they are the equivilant of putting all the ingredients in a pan and sticking your cake in a cold oven. The heat’s not there so no dessert for you.

    A better way to encourage art-ification is to build it organically. Rather than slapping down a new dance venue or a public arts space why not give tax breaks to people opening up gallery, performance, or studio spaces in Arlington.

    Build up things like the Ballston arts market or have a real arts festival that lasts more than a day and a half.

    Giving reduced rent to artisits isn’t bad, but perhaps not until you have started to get some growth in venues and interest.

    Getting businesses and residents involved in a make Arlington artistic movement would go a long way. Make people proud and desirous to live in an interesting artisitic place. Fight the commercial image of the county.

    Their ideas are too manufactured and are premised on an idea of “Make Arlington Artistically Respected.” I’d rather “Keep Arlington Weird” as supposedly was once an unofficial motto of the Arlingtonians as things became more commercial. DC is respected and is trying to grow its weird cred. Let’s beat them to it.

    • ArtAppreciator

      I think the ‘Keep it Weird’ slogan was born in Clarendon during its brief period of edginess. I agree with what you say though. There was some seedlings of organic artistry in Clarendon during that period with music involving Kenny Haddaway, physical arts involving John Aaron, and performance art involving a guy whose name I forget but there were some variety shows put on in the abandoned Peck body shop site that were really cool – all outside the purview of the County but probably involving groups like the Clarendon Alliance. The people I mention attracted others too so it wasn’t just them, but they seemed to be the core.

      Well, the Peck body shop is torn down, John Aaron’s studio is now Eventide and not sure what happened to Haddaway… The seedling didn’t grow though and I think part of it was loss of habitat (space).

      • doodly

        Don’t forget Bardo, that was a work of art in an old body shop too.

      • Westover

        I think “Keep It Weird” was stolen from Austin, Texas, which was the first city to use it not so far back in 2000.


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