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Arlington Arts Center is Looking for New Executive Director

Amanda Browder, City of Threads, 2019.

(Update at 4:05 p.m.) The Arlington Arts Center is searching for a new executive director.

Last month, the non-profit arts organization at 3550 Wilson Blvd in the Virginia Square area announced that it is conducting a national search to hire a new leader.

The search is being headed up by D.C.-based Good Insight, which specializes in recruiting executive-level talent for non-profits.

Former executive director Holly Koons departed in October to become director of the newly-opened Christopher Newport University Fine Arts Center in Newport News. Koons was with AAC for four years.

In the meantime, the arts center’s Board of Directors has named Blair Murphy, Curator of Exhibitions since 2018, to serve as acting director.

Murphy said the organization has received more than 75 applications so far for the position, which pays in the $90,000s, according to the job announcement.

She says that many applicants are local, but they have received qualified applicants from California, Washington, Indiana, and even internationally. Many of the applicants are professional arts administrators, but she says they have also gotten some from folks “who care about the arts personally but pursued another profession.”

The quality of applicants, Murphy writes, is impressive, though she noted that there is “no one perfect profile.”

The organization is looking for someone who will deepen the Arts Center’s impact in Arlington by strengthening community partnerships, raising visibility, and broadening support.

As one of the only dedicated venues for visual arts in the county, the Arlington Arts Center and its new director will need to be able to communicate with various types of audiences.

“Our new director will be someone who can connect with all of the audiences and communities we serve,” Murphy writes. “Adults and kids who participate in our education programs, art-lovers who come to see our exhibitions, and artists who exhibit in our galleries and participate in our residency program.”

The job listing also notes that the organization is in “stable immediate financial position” due largely to a PPP loan from 2020 and a bequest received in 2019. The annual budget has been in the range of $650,000 over the last several years, the listing says, which is supported by individuals, grants, foundations, and revenue from education programs and rentals.

There are currently three full time staffers but there’s room for at least two new hires in 2021, including the executive director.

One of those hires, Murphy tells ARLnow, would be to replace a recently-departed staff member who was in a marketing and administrative role. That is in addition to part-time, contract, and volunteer support as well as 15 to 20 class instructors.

The announcement requests that those applying for the executive director position do so by February 4 for “best consideration.” However, Murphy says that they will continue to review applications through the month and expects to announce the new hire in late spring.

Arlington Arts Center was founded in 1974 and is located in the historic former Maury School. The building is leased through a partnership with Arlington County; it holds nine exhibit galleries, studio space for artists, three classrooms, offices, and event rental space.

Currently, the galleries remain closed, but a public art project that first debuted in the summer remains on display on the front lawn. The project depicts 25 wooden slave ships formed from driftwood found in the Chesapeake Bay.

Overall, the arts scene in Arlington was decimated in 2020 due to the pandemic, losing more than $10 million in revenue.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Browder and Arlington Arts Center

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