Large Donation Helps Save Planetarium

by ARLnow.com July 1, 2011 at 9:27 am 4,313 31 Comments

A flood of last minute donations has helped to save Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium. A large donation from an anonymous donor pushed the campaign past its goal as the fundraiser came to a close on Thursday.

The anonymous donation of $50,000 bumped the total to $435,000. That surpassed the goal of $402,800 set in April 2010 by Dr. Patrick Murphy, Superintendent of Arlington Public Schools.

More than 3,500 businesses, individuals and foundations contributed to the cause, 200 of them taking part during the 10-day online fundraising challenge. The money will go toward purchasing a state-of-the-art planetarium projector, replacing the seats, updating the lighting system and repairing the inside of the dome. Had the goal not been met, the 40 year old facility would have been closed and used for classroom space.

Friends of the Arlington Planetarium, the non-profit group formed to raise money for the project, says it will continue to make sure the planetarium stays up to date and will provide support as necessary.

  • Miriam Gennari

    I assume all the schools and county board member will be at the ribbon cutting. But on a more positive note…Let this be a lesson to all of us, a few dedicated people can turn the tide using education and inspiration. Congratulations to the Friends of the Planetarium. All of Arlington’s future astronauts thank you!
    And to all the donors large and small (including every taxpayers) you will not be disappointed in your investment.

  • Southeast Ben

    Wasn’t NASA cut as a program? Don’t think we will have many astronauts.

    • Miriam Gennari

      Luck favors the prepared. Our planet is in peril, so if striving for space gets children interested in enviromental science and advanced math great! One day we may lack the resources necessary maintain life on Earth and we may need to explore beyond. As I always tell my girls, go for any career you want, but be an astronaut on the side. Someone has to design space suits.

      • clearlynotperceptive

        Keep telling yourself that.

      • TGEoA

        Someones been smoking the Heinlein.

    • R.Griffon

      NASA wasn’t cut in it’s entirety (although I’m sure there are quite a few anti-science folks who would like it to be). But their budget WAS cut. Again.


      We have such wonderful priorities in this country, and it trickles right down to our local schools. Do you think the athletic department got all the money it needed, or did they have to raise hundreds of thousands on their own as well?

      Surely we’ll continue to lead the world in the fields of science for generations to come.

    • Buzz lightyear

      NASAs funding was slashed but not cut. If anything- that’s a reason to push the solar system and exploration more- we need more people interested in science and engineering- without that desire nobody is going anywhere.

      • Lou

        Last I heard Obama said our goal for exploration should be Mars by 2030. M-A-R-S MARS.

        • Davie

          Obama has said a lot of things that haven’t been very factual. Ok, just kidding, everything Obama says isn’t very factual.

          • R.Griffon

            Unlike which other President, exactly?

  • RosRes

    Fantastic news and thank you to the Friends of the Planetarium! I look forward to attending the newly refurbished Planetarium!

  • April

    I read on the Styrofoam Mom blog that the planetarium boosters are still $16,000 short.

  • PhilL

    I donated early in the campaign. It was not looking good there for a while, but the organization never let up. Congratulations.

  • Trudy Harlow

    Perfect example of community financially supporting a project of importance to them. This is the way this sort of thing should get done, not by public funding.

    • R.Griffon

      Right on. You know who uses public funds for science and education?

      Communists. That’s who.

    • Lou

      The success of the fund raising campaign caused the school board to partially restore public funding for the Planetarium. As it should be, since it is a county owned facility.

  • hmmm

    that was nice of them…

  • Charlie

    Good news.
    I propose that NO school board members or the gym-teacher now sort-of-superintendent be allowed at any dedication.

  • Chris Myers

    I could see someone donating a few hundred dollars, but $50,000!!!

    There are real problems in this world that that kind of funding would help alleviate. I realize value is subjective, but how anyone could cut a check like that for something so frivolous is beyond me. Sometimes this Arlington bubble we live in is truly absurd.

    Using this as a classroom seemed like a perfectly reasonable option, since the brand-new W&L building is already bringing out the trailers.

    • PL25rd

      @Chris –

      And how do you know that this donor doesn’t also donate to other causes you deem more “worthy”? Better than another $50,000 BMW clogging up our Arlington roads.

      • Chris Myers

        I would assume that the donor gives lots of money away. That is not my point. They made a trade off when they gave that 50k away and I cannot look at this cause and see that as an appropriate one given the other available alternatives. It’s just my opinion, but its their money.

        • Theakston

          probably Shirley Maclaine?

    • Dan B

      @ Chris, how can you consider science education frivolous? Science and education is exactly what our future needs to alleviate those ‘real problems’ in the world. We need more people striving to improve our education system. This a very worthwhile cause that community members can help improve with their donations of time or money.

      When I look up at the stars, through a telescope or projected on a planetarium, I can always look past our Arlington bubble and realize exactly how important our Earth Bubble is.

      • Chris Myers

        @Dan This is a bit of a different argument, I’m speaking about a specific initiative, that, while it may have value, is curtently not a priority. I do not believe that children will be greatly deprived of science education if this were to be turned into a classroom. They could just go down the street in fact: http://www.nasm.si.edu/visit/theaters/planetarium/. Hell, leaving the city and going somewhere you can actually see stars might even be better. Your point was much more general than the one I was addressing.

        Having said that, looking at the data, it is clear that spending on education is a priority in this country. Education spending has risen signficantly in the last two decadeds and we have little to no positive results. My spelling is an example.

        I’m not saying we cut funding, but more money is clearly not the answer. The Chinese spend vastly less than we do and get much higher returns. I think this is because parents their do what we used to do. This is, instill in their children a value for education. While we focus on making everybody feel good even if they fail, they are beating As into their kids. (The answer lies somewhere in the middle of course.)

        • Arlingtonian

          Having a planterium right here in Arlington is invaluable for the many children whose families are below the poverty line. Those families don’t have the resources to do all the things the rest of us take for granted, like dashing off to the DC Einstein planetarium or running off to the country whenever we feel like it.. Even a small field trip fee could be something those families can’t spare. No one seems to ever want to take that into consideration, but it’s a fact. If the Arlington planetarium sparks an Arlington child’s imagination and inspires him or her to be an astronomer one day or pursue a higher education in that direction, then that’s WELL worth that one time $50,000 donation to me.

          • jjbug

            Your argument is spirited and touching many values I share. I wonder how to prioritize our goals? Is the planetarium more important than efforts to house the homeless? prevent dementia among our senior citizens? allow more of our people access to medical care? find solutions for the undocumented citizens raising children here? protect our water supply?

            Arlington is a perfectly wonderful place to live (I arrived 1970 and have watched its development). However, the intelligence and interests of its well-educated citizens often emphasize protecting what is their favorite program without contemplating using the same money or land to address other, more immediate problems for people who are not able to give $100 to the planetarium! To assure a first-class planetarium and accept at the same time, cuts that provide too few teachers to cover the accepted ratio of teacher to students in our regular classrooms does not make sense.

            I agree the School Board and the County Board are small groups (10 minds) and thus much in need of hearing from the rest of us of our experiences with the questions they face. We are lucky to have a system of Citizen Advisory Groups for both entities and it may be there we can see that none of the supporters of the planetarium had taken the time and trouble to serve on one of these groups in the last 10 years. It is hard work and so few do it. Can you tell us how the big givers have worked in this community to affect change before the planetarium question arose?

          • Chris Myers

            @arlingtonian Like I said, value is subjective and I would not deny anyone the right to spend their money the way they see fit. I was expressing my confusion with that choice given all the valuable alternatives.

            Arlington is a great place to live, but the enormous incomes here, twice the national average, create a strange cultural bubble. I grew up in a single-parent household that often fell below the poverty line each year. While I was in high school my mom finished college and we settled in Alexandria. To this day, I am both amused and saddened by this areas perspective on poverty.
            I’m pretty sure half the folks here have never had a twenty minute conversation with a poor person. I assure you I grew up happy, I went to museums, and we often found the time to leave the city in our crappy old car. Resources where a minor problem and the people here with an overabundance of them can’t imagine that as possible.

            I think the folks around here talk about poverty when they mean to talk about mental illness and other factors where poverty is just a symptom? Those are real problems that need resources to address. A new planetarium in Arlington is like having all new flat screens in every room. It might look fancy, but that does not mean it is a good use of money.

            For Arlington, I would be more concerned about the kids who grow up with bad parents. That happens in both poor and rich homes alike. In poverty it can lead to violent drug using adults. In wealthy homes it leads to spoiled useless brats that usually end up going to law school. 🙂

  • SusainableArlington

    It think you will change your mind after the renovation. I’ll leave you at ticket at the door. I wholeheartedly agree with the idea of repurposing buildings, but I would start with the school board office next door. Plenty of space for classrooms. Perhaps the schools administrative offices should have been moved to trailers not the students.

  • APSnumberone

    It’s ridiculous that citizens had to raise this money to keep the planetarium open. It should have come from the school system’s budget. Period. If it’s worth keeping open, the taxpayers should support it. Shame on the school board and supt. for following what the county board did to that nature center and tried to do to Lubber Run amphitheatre.

    • John Fontain

      “It’s ridiculous that citizens had to raise this money to keep the planetarium open. It should have come from the school system’s budget.”

      Doesn’t the school system’s budget come from the citizens anyway? And if private citizens are willing to fund something – which they obviously were – why should the government pay for it? Why not let the private citizens pay for it?

      “If it’s worth keeping open, the taxpayers should support it.”

      There was no clear concensus among citizens that it was worth keeping open. The funding of this project by private citizens was perfect in that those who really cared about it were the ones to pay for it. More things should be funded this way (read, Artisphere).

      • R.Griffon

        It’s on school property and provides a clear educational benefit. I think the onus should be on those opposed to public funding to explain why it SHOULDN’T be paid for with the school’s taxpayer dollars.


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