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The Right Note: If At First You Don’t Succeed?

The Right Note is a weekly opinion column published on Thursdays. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

Mark KellyAccording to a 2009 announcement, the Artisphere was supposed to be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week, attract over 250,000 visitors a year, become profitable in three years, and spur additional economic development in Rosslyn.

Two years later, the Artisphere produced massive first-year operational cost overruns and revenue shortages that would require escalating taxpayer subsidies for the foreseeable future. County Manager Barbara Donnellan produced what she deemed “a much more realistic plan.”

The new plan has still failed to put the Artisphere on a trajectory towards self-sufficiency. The bottom line is that we have pumped millions of taxpayer dollars into it, and the Artisphere is still nowhere near fulfilling the promises the County Board made to us, not once but twice.

Last week, we learned that the County Board had voted unanimously to bail out the Signature Theater to the tune of $250,000. The bailout covers the theater’s delinquent taxes — taxes they chose not to pay in an effort to “control expenses”. This bailout led one newspaper to deem the theater “too fabulous to fail.”

How would this have gone over with Treasurer Frank O’Leary if the offender had been anyone but a county-backed project? Quite possibly, it would have been sold to pay the debt.

Instead, the County Board essentially made a simple spreadsheet maneuver. The taxes were magically marked as paid courtesy of the rest of us who pay our taxes every year while controlling other costs in our budget. The money is still in the general fund to be spent elsewhere this year, while the theater is simply off the hook.

If you reach back into your memory banks, you may remember the County Board’s approval of another theater project in January 2012. As part of site plan concessions, the County will receive a black box theater on Wilson Boulevard. The County will pay to fill in the developer-provided shell, but it will make out well on the lease, at $1 a year. This is a similar deal to the 15 years of free rent for the Artisphere. The new theater will likely not be saddled with the repayment of a huge construction loan, something Signature still owes to the tune of $7.8 million.

So, will the financial honeymoon end soon after operations begin as it did with the previous two projects? According to the press release announcing the new theater last January:

“County staff will work with the Arlington Commission for the Arts and others to develop a business plan and economic options for the operations of the theater. These will address a series of cost, use and operational alternatives for review by the County Manager in the preparation of future budgets.”

Hopefully these are not the same county staff who assisted with the Artisphere’s original business plan or its “new” and “more realistic” plan. Of course, if they can count on the County Board for ongoing subsidies and bailouts, creating a business plan is little more than an intellectual exercise anyway.

The bottom line is Arlingtonians deserve more accountability than we are getting from our taxpayer-funded arts endeavors.

Mark Kelly is a former Arlington GOP Chairman and two-time Republican candidate for Arlington County Board.

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(This Community Post was written by Signature Theatre and underwritten by Embracing Arlington Arts.)

Signature Theatre just released single tickets for all 33rd season productions, which highlights the organization’s long-time relationship with legendary composer Stephen Sondheim. Beginning with the musical adaptation of The Color Purple and irreverent No Place to Go, the season continues with three Sondheim musicals, the DC premieres of Off-Broadway hit Which Way to the Stage and Pulitzer Prize finalist Selling Kabul, the Tony Award®-winning rock musical Passing Strange, and return of Signature’s cabaret series honoring legendary artists.

“Last November, the world lost an icon. The death of Stephen Sondheim was a blow to everyone in the theater community. Signature Theatre would not be the same without Sondheim — he IS Signature’s ‘signature.’ This season, we are honoring the legend with productions of Into the Woods, Pacific Overtures and Sweeney Todd dedicated to his memory. These shows represent the diversity and range of Sondheim,” said Signature’s Artistic Director Matthew Gardiner about the new season.

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“Probing the highly imaginative, inspired mind of Teresa Oaxaca is not altogether unlike having a present-day conversation with an Old Master,” says Nashville Arts Magazine.

Here is an unusual opportunity to learn from this incredibly talented and accessible artist, at Art House 7’s two-day oil painting workshop in October. Teresa will give 2 portrait painting demonstrations for 3 hours each morning. Students will then be painting from a clothed live model. Teresa will offer individual critiques that focus on materials, techniques, process and artistic vision. You’ll get jazzed up about painting and become more confident about your abilities.

Art House 7, Two-Day Oil Painting Workshop with Teresa Oaxaca. Saturday, October 22 and Sunday, October 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. EDT $250.

See more about Teresa Oaxaca here. Art House 7 5537 Langston Blvd., Arlington, Va. 22207

Submit your own Community Post here.

ACFCU’s Homebuying Happy Hour

Are you ready to buy your first home, but concerned about saving for a down payment? Grab a drink and join us for 45 minutes to learn more about how you can buy your first house with 3%, 5%, or

Azure Dream Day Spa Grand Opening

Azure Dream Day Spa is hosting their Grand Opening Celebration at their beautiful new spa located at 901 N. Quincy St. on Friday, August 12 from 5-9 p.m.

All are invited to come tour the new spa and to take


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