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Two designs emerge for a community space where Inner Ear Studios used to be

Two design concepts have emerged for a temporary outdoor arts space where Inner Ear Studios, the epicenter of the D.C. punk scene, used to be.

Last year, Arlington County acquired two parcels of land — 2700 S. Nelson Street and 2701 S. Oakland Street — and the warehouse that sits on it, which housed Inner Ear, a Ben & Jerry’s catering outfit and, temporarily, part of Arlington Food Assistance Center, while its main building was under renovation.

Shortly after the acquisition, Arlington County began making plans to raze it and build an outdoor entertainment space as part of an effort to implement an arts and industry district in Green Valley.

Dealing with the optics of demolishing a famed recording studio to build an arts and industry district, the arts division argues the space responds to community needs and makes art more accessible.

“Arlington County is prioritizing a community-based vision that is reflective of local needs and ideas for public arts programming,” per a recent report.

So this spring and summer, Arlington Arts and a placemaking and public arts firm Graham Projects engaged with nearly 400 people, nearly half of whom live or work nearby in Green Valley, Shirlington and elsewhere, through in-person and virtual events, as well as an online engagement page.

Participants shared their feedback on colors, themes, local history and programming, which formed the basis of the two designs. Generally, they envisioned an open space with natural landscaping and plantings, murals and temporary sculpture installations.

Respondents suggested creating a space that could host open-mic nights, art classes, festivals, kids performances, movie nights, partnerships with schools and community arts programs, and food-related programming to dovetail off the work of nearby Arlington Food Assistance Center, per the report.

Some requested multicultural programming and an emphasis on ethnically and racially diverse artists to highlight the same diversity in Green Valley. Others suggested a new recording studio to pay homage to Inner Ear Studios, which has returned to founder Don Zientara’s basement in Arlington Heights.

In short, as one resident said, the open space should be “a place to create music and art, and not just another performance venue or theater stage.”

Another resident urged the county not to “replicate things that are already available to the community within Jennie Dean Park.”

After going over the feedback, Graham Projects came up with two designs, dubbed the “Grid” or the “Glade.” Both feature:

  • a large event space
  • a small performance area
  • a temporary public arts space
  • a makerspace
  • natural berm seating and built seating

The “Grid” design features community tables while the “Glade” has some pergolas covering community tables.

A pergola, left, amd community tables, right (via Arlington County)

But not everyone wants to see these features take over the open space.

One had concerns that portable art would be stolen, while some others said the county should consider adding parking for visitors to and staff at the Arlington Food Assistance Center.

“‘Pave paradise’ and please, please, please, put up a parking lot,” one said.

People can provide their feedback on these designs through Monday, Nov. 21.

Demolition could start in late 2022 or early 2023, according to a county webpage for the project.

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When: Dec 12, 2022, 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Topic: 2022 General Membership Meeting — NAACP Arlington Branch
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After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

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