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New Etched Glass Panels Installed at County Gov’t HQ

by ARLnow.com April 3, 2012 at 2:59 pm 5,347 55 Comments

In an effort to combine form and function, Arlington has outfitted four conference rooms at the county government building (2100 Clarendon Blvd) with glass panels etched with unique designs by local artist Linn Meyers.

Before the artwork was proposed, the county was already planning to install an industrial film over the glass panels that line the conference rooms, to minimize the “distracting ‘fishbowl effect'” of people constantly walking by and peering inside during meetings. By combining the money set aside for the film installation and an existing fund for new public art in the building, the county was actually able to complete the project “well under budget.”

The artwork was dubbed “Untitled” by Meyers.

“Demonstrating how the inclusion of public art can be a savvy, attractive and economical civic design solution, Untitled is the second of eight major public art projects being delivered in a 12 month period,” said Jim Byers, Cultural Marketing Manager for Arlington Economic Development. “It is part of a broad initiative by Arlington’s Public Art Program to grow capacity in local artists to undertake public art projects.”

The etched panels were installed in three conference rooms on the ground floor of 2100 Clarendon Boulevard, and one conference room on the 3rd floor, near the County Board room. An official dedication for the artwork is planned for 10:30 a.m. on Tuesday, April 10.

  • novasteve

    How much did these etchings costs me?

    • Just Me

      Too much novasteve.

  • nom de guerre
  • Happy

    Good story, nice to see this kind of stuff in a gov’t office. I know what that “fishbowl’ feel is and it sucks. It’s even worse when they take away all windows in a meeting room. Good job!

  • drax,nunya,et al…..pls be kind

  • SomeGuy

    Anyone know if these conference rooms are available to the public? I.e., can I reserve one to hold a meeting of my own, unrelated to official county business?

    • T.G.E.0.A….

      Indeed. Stretching the term “public art”

    • SomeGuy

      County policy on public art can be found here:

      “Sites for public art covered by this Policy are prominent locations in Arlington which are identified as suitable for public art projects and are physically and/or visually accessible to and by the public.”

      It’s not clear to me how prominent or accessible these conference room etchings are to the public, which is why I posed the question.

      • Thes

        These meeting rooms are highly visible from the main floors (1st and 3rd) of the County office building. In order to visit most County offices (e.g. for taxes, licenses, voting and County Board meetings) you would pass right by them.

        I am not in favor of these etchings because I *liked* the fishbowl effect they produced. To me, the visibility of those meetings communicated — literally — transparency in government. All the meetings held in those rooms were meetings held at taxpayer expense, and many of them are public meetings. When inside those rooms at a meeting, I did not feel especially distracted by people passing by.

        So, I think it’s a shame, but I do support that it was done artistically and would agree that the location is highly visible to the public.

        • SomeGuy

          Thank you for the response, Thes.

  • Ballstonienne

    My stars, what will they think of next?

  • John Fontain

    The County staff is patting themselves on the back for coming in “well under budget,” but in my opinion the last thing the county should be doing is publicizing something like this.

    The county commissioned an artist because, in their view, they had some left over money that needed to be spent. But instead of viewing that money as leftover or needing to be spent, they should have viewed that unspent money as funds to be saved for next year to lower the tax burden or funds that should be returned to taxpayers.

    Or for christ’s sake, if you don’t care about your fiduciary duty to not waste taxpayer money at least spend the money on wages for county staff. I can guarantee that the staff would rather have an extra $20 in their pocket than have fancy etched glass on conference room walls.

    This is a classic example of a government not truly understanding whose money they are spending and their responsibility to carefully marshall those resources. They should be embarrassed for touting this wasteful expenditure of our money.

    • mick way

      But they were originally going to install film which would have cost more than the etchings did. What’s the problem unless you think the privacy film is an offense? I like art especially when it costs less than non-art.

      • John Fontain

        The article says they combined the film money with the art money to fund this. In other words, they spent more than they orginally planned to spend to cover the windows.

        My point is this, they are spending other peoples’ money – our money. They shouldn’t be spending it frivolously on things that aren’t necessary. All expenditures should be made only on necessities and only in the most cost effective manner.

        For example, if you wanted to cover your window at work what would you do? Would you commission an artist? Or would you go to Home Depot and buy a roll of frosted privacy window film for less than $20? I’m guessing you’d go the practical route and not waste your money on an artist.

        So what I’m saying is that the County should spend our tax dollars at least as carefully as you or I would. They did not do that in this case, and yet they have the nerve to brag about this waste of taxpayer resources as if they did something good.

        I’ll guarantee they could have bought several 4’x6′ rolls of privacy film at $20 a pop and accomplished their goal a heck of a lot more affordably than they did.

        In the spirit of open and honest government, is anyone at the County willing to let us know the total amount spent on this project?

        • Ivy


        • Cate

          They are spending our money – and by spending that money, they are allowing someone else to earn an income, who then contributes to the economy by spending…I’m not seeing your problem.

          • John Fontain

            “by spending that money, they are allowing someone else to earn an income”

            Government does not exist to employ people, it exists to provide us with services most effectively (and efficiently) performed on a collective basis.

            “I’m not seeing your problem.”

            I thought the problem was pretty obvious, but I’ll try again. The government shouldn’t spend more for something than it needs to. How can any reasonable person disagree with that premise?

          • Cate

            So…you think everybody who works for/with the government to provide services should just do it for free?

            Or do you think that only income earned from private enterprise is worthwhile?

            Would you be complaining if the artist received any benefits due to lack of employment/income?

          • John Fontain


          • Cate

            I’m not even looking at whether they really needed it or not – in my opinion, it seems a silly expenditure, but I look at it as the county just provided a job to someone.

          • John Fontain

            “and by spending that money, they are allowing someone else to earn an income, who then contributes to the economy by spending”

            So to help the economy you think we should:

            1. Take money from party A (via taxes)
            2. Give the money to party B (via hiring them)
            3. Party B spends the money, which helps the economy.

            Why not just let party A keep their money and spend it themselves and you’ll have the same benefit to the economy? Because remember, for every dollar taken from party A to give to Party B, party A will have one less dollar to spend themselves. I don’t follow your logic that it better for the economy to have our money redistributed before it gets spent. Please explain.

          • Cate

            That’s kind of how business works. People do things, they get paid. The people who get paid go and spend money. The people/organizations/companies that earn the money pay other people to do things. It’s a cycle.

          • John Fontain

            Kudos to you. You successfully managed to dodge the question.

        • Harry

          That’s what you took from this? Because what I took away was they needed privacy and they needed art, and they got both. Not only that, but by killing two birds with one stone they have extra money left over that they can use for either infrastructure improvements or more art in public areas.

          You’re decrying this as the county being wasteful with tax money, but I think it’s really quite the opposite. Would you have wanted them to go the more expensive route? To use more money for less?

          • John Fontain

            “needed art”

            Are you sure “need” is the correct word?

            And if the County “wants” to spend money on art, then they should have done it in a place that people other than County employees might actually see. I’d guess that the vast majority of citizens have never seen those conference rooms and never will. They could have saved thousands of dollars by putting film on the windows and used the money for more productive purposes (real public art or new police equipment).

      • Quoth the Raven

        There is no way window film was going to cost more than an artist’s etchings. No freaking way. Unless it was made of titanium, and installed by George Clooney.

    • nom de guerre

      As someone who has attended many boring County meetings, I welcome the distraction of someone walking by and breaking up the monotony.

    • Board run amok, exhibit A

      I agree. Slap on some window frosting already and stop wasting taxpayer funds. This project, a few hundred grand for artwork ON A FENCE SURROUNDING A WASTE TREATMENT PLANT, etc. and pretty soon you’re talking about real money. I’m a Democrat, but I am disgusted by these out-of-touch clowns who are betraying their fiduciary duty to the people who elected them. Throw the bums out.

      • drax

        Fencing off the water treatment plant is part of a larger effort to make that area not an ugly hellhole, which in the long run will generate much more than it costs. That’s government sometimes – doing things you can’t always quantify, but are still worth it. You know, like parks, and police, stuff like that.

  • fish friendly

    I think curtains would be cheaper.
    Like I have in my house. Since I don’t want passers-by to be looking in my window.
    I was going to commission an artist to etch my windows instead, but then I realized that that was a stupid waste of money.

  • anonymouse

    The next big headline on ARLnow: “Paint Dries on Park Bench”

  • Swag

    Step 1: Copy topographic map.
    Step 2: ???
    Step 3: Profit.

    • SoArl

      Underpants gnomes!

  • Map reader

    So much for adding more transparency to local government decision making.

    • drax

      I see what you did there.

  • Just the Facts

    I know the complaints above are primarily designed just to get a reaction, but I’ll bite anyway.

    For those who want a bare bones, adhesive-privacy-film-on-the-windows local government, you have many to choose from (primarily in the central and southern part of this commonwealth). If you are so angry at how this government spends your money, please move. You can have all the drab government facilities you want.

    And you’ll stop annoying the majority of us in this county who appreciate living in a vibrant community adorned with plentiful publicly supported arts.

    • Plunkitt of Clarendon Blvd

      The “if you don’t like it move crowd” is becoming more than a bit annoying.
      I bet that some of you folks are also the same people who tout how “inclusive” Arlington is…………

    • John Fontain

      “I know the complaints above are primarily designed just to get a reaction”

      Sorry, you are wrong.

      “If you are so angry at how this government spends your money, please move.”

      Common sense suggests that having neighbors who want responsible government is beneficial to your pocket book. Instead of telling people to move if they don’t like something, why don’t you explain why you don’t care how your money is spent? Or why you don’t care if our government is a careful steward of your money? Your argument would be more constructive if it stuck to the actual issue at hand.

      “And you’ll stop annoying the majority of us in this county who appreciate living in a vibrant community adorned with plentiful publicly supported arts.”

      Please provide evidence to support your assertion that the majority of people in the county support the county spending money to etch conference room windows. Real public art might be one thing, but spending money on conference room windows that the majority of the citizens will never see is a waste of your money and mine. Especially when the goal (of creating privacy for the conference rooms) could have been accomplished for a fraction of the cost.

      • Just the Facts

        I do care how my money is spent. I agree with the way the current County government spends my money. It’s made Arlington the incredibly successful place it is. Your argument assumes that the County government isn’t a “careful steward” of money. Sounds like an opinion to me. My opinion is that it is. Who’s right? If you get to state your opinion as fact, what stops me from doing the same? And I don’t think that spending a few more dollars to incorporate art into privacy screends for windows is a “waste” of money. I appreciate that we do things a little bit better here, even if it costs more.

        As for evidence that the majority of people support the way the County spends money, I’ll offer the fact that for nearly the past decade, incumbents have been getting reelected with 60+% of the vote. If there’s so much discontent, why isn’t is materializing in elections? You malcontents have found a few kindred souls on these boards and you shout at each other, creating an echo chamber that makes you think it’s representative of the County at large…it’s not.

        As for moving, I’m not telling you to move, I just asked the question why you choose to live somewhere that makes you so angry. Arlington’s been this way for decades. My question remains, if you want a bare-bones local government, why not live somewhere that offers it?

        -34-year Arlington resident

        • Just the Facts

          In all fairness, I re-read my post and I did tell you to move. Oops. The question remains, however: why live somewhere that is run in a fashion that makes you so upset? Especially when there are options more in line with your vision of local government not so far away.

          • John Fontain

            Thanks for the more reasoned response, because telling people to move when they don’t like the way something is done seems pretty un-democratic.

            That said, I’m not angry. Frustrated is more appropriate. And not at the government overall. I love Arlington and I think, on balance, the government does a fine job. However, I don’t live here ‘because’ of the government and I doubt many people choose which county to live in based on the government.

            The bottom line for me is that the government should spend our money very carefully; just as carefully as we would spend it ourselves. I’d bet that most citizens in the county would not have put etched glass at the top of the spending priority list. For me it would be way below computers for schools, money for teacher resources, road repairs, etc. Aren’t there other more pressing needs?

            As to election results, I don’t think it’s fair to construe them as a proxy for spending money on etched glass.

            -Born in Arlington more than 34 years ago.

          • 22207

            John, you have hit on the point the “then move” people fail at. The corollary to their mantra is that they must have moved here only because of the government. Which is laughable.

            Like you, this is my home town. Telling us to move just because we dare object to anything about Arlington is a sign of their narrow minded attitudes.

            Keep fighting the good fight.

          • John Fontain

            Thanks for the kind words. I don’t expect a revolution at the County offices, but it’d be nice to think that county staff reading this today might one day in the future be reminded as a result of this thread to ask themselves the following when making a purchasing decision:

            “Do we really need this” or
            “Is there a more cost effective way to do this?”

  • Citizen

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Plunkitt. The “Don’t Like It? Move!” crowd has gotten out of hand these past few years.

    For too many it’s the only retort available in any discussion or debate.

    And I don’t question their sincerity for a minute – I believe they do want anyone with an opposing opinion to move.

    In a way it’s nice that forums like ARLnow provide an amplifier for their voices to be heard beyond the confines of their apartment.

    But no too nice.

    • Skeptical


      I’ve been told that I should move if I think Clarendon was nicer when it wasn’t wall to wall bars and bad behavior — by people who probably moved into the county five years ago. I must say that sets the bar for belonging in Arlington pretty damn high. And if I hear the word “vibrant” one more time I’m going to upchuck. I don’t care if my community vibrates, as long as the trash pickup is prompt and complete (I do hand it to Arlington for picking up everything, right down to car batteries), the water and sewer services are kept up (um, when is it going to be safe to touch Four Mile Run again?), the parks are clean, the traffic signals work, the police/emergency people are on the job and aren’t cowboys. Most of the “vibration” hereabouts doesn’t touch the daily life of anyone who doesn’t live on the Orange Line or right on top of Shirlington, so do the math and figure out how many taxpayers are really getting the benefit.

  • So…

    I’m not trying to cheapen anyone’s artwork, but with the beauty of the google machine in 2012 and the social media that collects a million and one “how to” tutorials for all art projects, I promise you that for the tiniest fraction of what they paid I could’ve gone on pinterest and found some do it yourself glass etching strategy and worked around some drawn or taped lines. Just a fact. This was a waste of money. Wish they had advertised for a need for this “project” shoot I would’ve done it in a weekend and they could’ve paid me a portion of what they likely paid this artist.

    • Virginia^2

      I haven’t gone to the internet for ideas, but I can think of something off the top of my head:

      1) apply cheap window film to whole window

      2) tape stencil of County logo (or any “artsy” stencils) to window

      3) trace stencil(s) with x-acto knife

      4) remove unwanted film

      5) art

      Anyone could have done this in about a day, for about $200 in supplies.

      • ArlMama

        Then why don’t you make yourself known to the Public Art Committee (headed by ARLINGTON COUNTY CITIZENS) and propose a project?!?!?! Meetings are OPEN to the PUBLIC and meet monthly.

        • Sam

          Why are you so angry? Does the Public Art Committee address stenciling on office windows? What Virginia proposed above is pretty much common sense. We just had all of our conference rooms in our office wrapped for under $500. I’d really love to know what the County spent on this.

        • John Fontain

          So let me get this straight ArlMama, now it’s OUR fault that the government wasted money on etched glass? Seriously???

  • ArlForester

    I haven’t heard the name Lane Meyer in years. Is he still tearing up the K-12?

    • Quoth the Raven

      I want my two dollars.

  • ArlMama

    – Arlington’s Public Art Program is administered by the Community and Public Art Section of the Cultural Affairs Division, Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources

    – The Arlington County Board approved a Public Art Policy in September, 2000.

    – The Public Art Master Plan was approved in December, 2004. Program guidelines for county-initiated projects were approved in 2005 and guidelines for developer and community-initiated projects are currently in development.

    – Arlington has a long history of developer-initiated public art projects beginning in 1979 with the commission of Nancy Holt’s Dark Star Park.

    – Arlington is currently home to 56 permanent public art projects, with many more underway.

    -Arlington has hosted over 40 temporary public art projects since 1987.

    -Arlington’s Public Art Program typically has around 35 developer-initiated projects underway at any given time. In December, 2008, just under $3 million is designated for upcoming public art projects through developer contributions.

    -Many of Arlington’s public art projects focus on the following areas due to the high density and visibility of these corridors:
    + Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, particularly those that support larger urban design goals;
    + Four Mile Run Corridor, both in parkland and areas such as Shirlington, the Trades Center campus and Four Mile Run/Nauck area;
    + Columbia Pike Corridor, to unify the streetscape of this major road and integrate into transit;
    + Jefferson Davis Corridor, development of various centers including Four Mile Run restoration, Potomac Yards, Crystal City and Pentagon City.

    Please, learn about the public art program & the public art policy which has been around for over 10 years: http://www.arlingtonarts.org/cultural-affairs/public-art-in-arlington/about-public-art.aspx

  • Civic Activist

    A few observations on this topic:
    1) Why is any modification to the glass needed? Most County meetings generate enough hot air to fully obscure those rooms.
    2) While the County claims diversity, if you have ever walked by meetings in those rooms you simply did not see it. The County is prudent to cover up its failures.
    3) How much does the cost of this ‘below budget expenditure’ exceed the yearly County contribution to food banks?

  • civil servant

    Does anyone know how much this project cost? Arl Now, can you find out? Clearly that would add tremendously to the conversation. Every citizen, it seems to me, has a right to understand how their money is spent.


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