Press Club

Artisphere Director: ‘The Show Must Go On’

Artisphere during the Silver Clouds exhibitArtisphere is very likely to close on June 30, barring a change of heart from the majority of the Arlington County Board, and while many agree with the Board’s decision, the local art scene is lamenting the loss.

Artisphere — with multiple theaters for programming of everything from local orchestras to international groups with experimental sounds and galleries for its free visual art displays — will continue operating as planned, Executive Director Jose Ortiz said.

“The show must go on,” he told yesterday. “It was definitely a disappointing decision … We have programs that are planned and on the books, from exhibitions and performances to rentals. The items that are on the books must continue.”’s unscientific poll yesterday asked readers if they agreed with County Manager Barbara Donnellan’s recommendation to close Artisphere at the end of the fiscal year. Some 57 percent of poll respondents — out of nearly 3,000 votes — said they agree with the decision. Ortiz said he didn’t necessarily disagree with it.

“Barbara said it. This was a business decision,” he said.

Some critics of the move are calling it “short-sighted,” alluding to the multimedia center’s uptick in both revenues and visitors in the past year or more. Donnellan said the theater would require $2 million or more per year to stay open, but vowed to continue the revitalization efforts in Rosslyn.

In an era when communities throughout the country and especially in the D.C. area have used arts and culture to successfully revitalize neighborhoods, Donnellan’s recommendation to close the county’s most vital cultural asset is both shocking and remarkably short-sighted,” wrote Phil Hutinet, editor of D.C. arts website East City Art.

Ortiz started at Artisphere four months after it opened to lots of hype and hope the it would be revenue neutral. He said he would have “helped people understand what Artisphere was” if he had been involved from the beginning. Still, he said, he’s proud of the four years of programming the center has showcased.

“My hope is people will remember us because they were part of a project or they attended something here that blew their minds,” he said.

A full statement from Oritz on Artisphere’s closing, after the jump:

Dear friends,

As you have probably heard, Arlington County manager Barbara Donnellan has made a recommendation to the County board that funding for Artisphere no longer continue and to cease Artisphere’s operations as of June 30, 2015.

We are, of course, incredibly disappointed in this decision.

We also understand that the budgetary realities faced by the County are vastly different today than they were four years ago when we opened. We do not envy those who are working through the County’s budgeting process during a time when Arlington County office vacancy rates have soared to an unprecedented high and a $28 million budget shortfall exists in this fiscal year alone.

Therefore, we echo Barbara Donnellan’s sentiment that this is ultimately a business decision, albeit an extremely disappointing one.

As such, it is our sad duty to confirm that Artisphere will indeed cease operations on June 30, barring a last minute miracle in the form of a change of heart by the County board.

So we wish to take this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge the many individuals — and the community at large — that contributed to Artisphere’s many successes over the past four years. It’s staggering to believe that in just four years, Artisphere presented nearly 1000 programs, and welcomed roughly a quarter million visitors through its doors to experience a level of contemporary art that all of us on staff are proud to have produced.

To the artists who performed and presented at Artisphere: we marvel at the creative minds that brought us such a stunning range of artistic experiences. From the wonder of Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds exhibition, to the breathtaking range of diverse musicians we presented from all over the world, we have presented a depth and breadth of contemporary art programming that this region has not experienced under one roof heretofore. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We truly could not have done it without you.

To the audiences who came to experience and support those works of art, THANK YOU as well. Art does not truly exist without an audience. Your unending gratitude and positive feedback has made this endeavor not a chore, but a joy. For every child whose horizon was expanded at one of our Family Days…to every Arlington County resident who was inspired… your visit was worthwhile and we so appreciate your support.

To our partners who supported us by extending the reach of our modest budget: we simply could not have presented the volume and quality of programming without your support. From embassies to promotional partners to media partnerships, there have been a great number of partners behind the scenes that allowed us to pull off a minor miracle in the sheer quantity of programming we presented. We are so grateful for all that you provided.

And finally, to the residents of Arlington County: we certainly understand that you have some very difficult decisions to make in the months and years ahead. Balancing the budget is not a simple process. And yet, despite the challenges you face, we stand firm in our belief that to be a world-class community — one that that is vibrant and growing and attractive to the best young talent — the arts are a necessary, vital ingredient in the recipe of success and worthy of your investment. And so we hope that you demand creative solutions from your County leadership as it moves forward. We cannot stress enough how crucial the arts are in building vibrant, healthy communities. For the challenges faced by the County cannot be solved by simple budget cuts alone.

Finally, we wish to assure the community and our artists that we are committed to delivering a high quality experience for all who attend Artisphere right up until June 30. If you haven’t been to a performance or an exhibition, don’t miss the opportunity. We look forward to seeing you in these next few months.

Best regards,

Jose Ortiz
Executive Director

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