Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Last week, ARLnow reported that the Arlington County Board had voted unanimously to provide a $250,000 financial bailout to the Signature Theatre in Shirlington.
Let’s reserve final judgment on this until the grant agreement between the county and Signature is made public. However, the facts made public so far raise serious questions about whether the county has the right standards regarding when it will provide public subsidies for the arts.
It certainly does not generate confidence when the County Manager tries to justify the bailout by saying, “Signature is thriving.” Any private organization that is thriving neither needs nor is entitled to a public bailout.
If there is a justification for this bailout, it must include the assumption that Signature is NOT thriving, but that there is a reasonable basis to believe it can return to financial health in a reasonable period of time. Why didn’t the County Manager say that?
Other aspects of the story also raise questions. As ARLnow further reported: “Signature Theatre has sole access rights and branding capability in its current space within a county owned building. It is responsible for the full costs of operating that facility, including real estate and business tangible taxes. Other county supported arts groups performing in county subsidized spaces are not required to pay taxes.”
Assuming this report is accurate:
- What standards does the county apply in deciding which arts groups are granted the right to perform in county subsidized spaces — and for how long?
- What standards does the county apply in deciding which arts groups performing in county subsidized spaces are required to pay taxes?
- What standards does the county apply in deciding which arts groups performing in county subsidized spaces have sole branding capability?
As I have written previously, Arlington needs to develop a consistent framework for prioritizing and paying for its core services. There definitely is a place within such a framework for public support for the arts.
But, to generate sufficient public confidence, both the core services framework itself and the standards for providing public subsidies for the arts need to be carefully articulated and explained.
Arlington’s policy statement regarding public support for the arts is now 23 years old. A quarter-million-dollar Signature bailout, provided despite Arlington’s new financial realities suggests this is a good time for Arlington to click “refresh” on its public arts policy.
Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
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Synetic Theater Camps are a wildly fun, highly accessible choice for young people who love moving, playing games, and making memories. Registration is open now for Summer Camps (sessions June 20-August 25) and there are even a few spots left for Spring Break camp, April 3-7.
Located in National Landing, these performance-based camps are designed for students of all ages – no theater or performance experience required.
Led by professional teaching artists, campers learn acting, movement, and technical theater skills through the lens of Physical Theater. Physical Theater incorporates acting, movement, dance, mime, and acrobatics. If you’ve seen a Cirque du Soleil performance, you’ll find many similarities.
Most first-time campers are new to the performing arts, and teaching artists are well-versed in engaging students at all levels. Parents and campers report that one of the best parts of Synetic is the community, with many families returning year after year because they feel a strong sense of belonging.
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WHS Spring Festival
Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!
Shop local vendors, arts & crafts, new and used items, food vendors/trucks, and
District 27 Toastmasters 2023 Virtual Conference
District 27 Toastmasters invites you to its annual conference where you can hear phenomenal speakers, attend professional development and personal growth seminars about leadership, negotiation, communication, teamwork, and mentorship. Learn how to develop your personal story and how to improve