Search Results for "Embracing Arlington Arts"
Arts organizations in Arlington need additional support from Arlington residents, says Janet Kopenhaver, founder and chair of Embracing Arlington Arts.
The group was founded earlier this year and counts Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) and County Board vice chair Katie Cristol among its supporters.
Embracing Arlington Arts describes itself as “an independent citizens group comprised of Arlington arts supporters whose mission is to inform others about the importance and diversity of the arts, artists and arts organizations in our community.” It also helps to “spread the word about the extremely diverse performance and cultural events held in Arlington.”
On this week’s 26 Square Miles podcast, we talked with Kopenhaver about her organization, her recent radio interview with Second Lady Karen Pence, the economic impact of the arts in Arlington, the mistakes made with Artisphere, why the number of arts groups in Arlington are dwindling, and how local residents and organizations can support the arts.
Arlington arts organizations may have lost as much as $10 million in 2020 due to the pandemic, but they were able to get by with help from friends of the arts.
Many arts groups in the county reported losing 41-60% of their expected income, according to Embracing Arlington Arts, a group of local residents who work toward bolstering the arts in the county. But the arts organizations survived on a combination of government and private grants, generous locals and virtual performances.
“Most arts groups had no earned revenue,” said Janet Kopenhaver, the founder of Embracing Arlington Arts. “While they were offering these virtual things, you can’t charge what you would normally charge for a ticket. You had to depend on your donors and the donors came through.”
The National Chamber Ensemble, which sold season tickets for virtual concerts, said Zoom and donations from patrons helped the group stay in tune.
“We had wine and cheese receptions over Zoom with the audience,” said the ensemble’s artistic director and first violinist Leo Sushansky. “Everything balanced each other out because virtually a whole family could watch with one ticket, but people who didn’t live nearby like in England or New York could attend performances also.”
Arlington-based Synetic Theatre’s Managing Director Jason Najjoum said the theater also received generous donations.
“Our individual donors continued or increased their support, which says as much about the work we do as the Northern Virginia/Greater Washington community we call home,” Najjoum said. “We were able to keep our staff fully employed, and even added a couple of team members.”
Groups accessed the county’s annual arts grant program, small business grants from the county, and the more-competitive state and federal arts grants funding, Kopenhaver said. Arts groups could also cash in on federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Najjoum said Synetic relied heavily on PPP funding to create a custom streaming website and app.
“None of this would have been possible without significant government support,” he said. “It was hard won by countless lobbyists and advocates, but the local, state and federal government really stepped up and provided the support we needed.”
Amazon contributed too, donating to several area arts organizations, including Synetic.
“We were able to support the acutely affected freelance arts worker class through an artist relief program that provided $60,000 in support to 32 arts workers,” noted Najjoum.
But artists are still uncertain about what the future holds for them in Arlington.
“The question remains: with government support ending, will ticket sales come back strong enough to replace it, especially given that our upfront production expenses will also be up? Producing theater has always been very expensive,” he said. “This will only work at the bottom line if audiences and donors increase their support going forward.”
Although many arts organizations weathered the shutdowns, a perennial issue facing these groups has resurfaced: space.
“We need a cultural center — a vibrant, busy venue. It would be a game changer,” said Kopenhaver. “We are losing arts groups because of lack of venue. It’s a critical issue.”
A few have already left because they cannot perform in middle schools, which she said is where most perform — away from transit, restaurants and other walkable amenities.
Embracing Arlington Arts is working with developers to create a flexible space in an area with more amenities that can accommodate arts audiences.
“We fear, if the venues keep dwindling, there will be nowhere to perform,” Kopenhaver said. “At a middle school you can’t have receptions, you can’t have alcohol, you can’t have talk backs, which are becoming popular, because the janitors are kicking you out.”
On top of that, the child-sized restrooms are uncomfortable for the patrons, many of whom are retirees, she said.
Synetic’s venue in Crystal City has been in high demand during the pandemic, and has been used for church services, film shoots and pageants, said Najjoum. But with more performances, Synetic needs its space back.
Meanwhile, the National Chamber Ensemble has been out of a concert hall for four years, after the county-run Rosslyn Spectrum (part of the now-defunct Artisphere) was closed to the public. The ensemble now performs at Gunston Arts Center or the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, along with other performing arts organizations.
When the pandemic hit, and those venues shut down, Sushansky said patrons opened up their homes.
“We went to the private homes of our patrons and these people had marvelous instruments,” he said. Still, he added, “it would certainly be nice to have our own space. It has to be a collaboration of the county.”
And COVID-19 remains a persistent threat.
Following the lead of Broadway theaters and other local D.C. arts venues, Synetic will require proof of full vaccination, either physically or digitally, or a negative PCR test, for the rest of the year. Audiences will have to wear masks at all times, except while eating or drinking. It will continue streaming its performances.
The National Chamber Ensemble is waiting to see the guidance closer to the start of the season on Nov. 6. Sushansky said he delayed the opening in hopes that coronavirus cases will go down. He says he’s eager to resume in person concerts again, but will retain the virtual option for those who are still not comfortable coming out.
“I wanted to create something for my community, so I can’t wait for communication in-person to resume,” he said. “It’s really special performing for the Arlington audience.”
The following is a round-up of upcoming shows from local arts organizations, organized by the type of performance.
Monday, May 10
County Board Democratic Candidate Debate on the Arts in Arlington
Via Zoom (with registration details on Facebook)
Time: 7-8 p.m.
Come hear from the two Democratic County Board candidates — Takis Karantonis and Chanda Choun — for a discussion about the arts in Arlington. Registration is required; RSVP to [email protected]
Thursday, May 13
Leadership Arlington & Ignite Young Professionals Info Session
Time: Noon-1 p.m.
The Leadership Center is hosting a free information session to discuss programs designed to help build leadership skills and get involved in the community. The session will feature class goals, curriculum, and application information.
The Yorktown High School theater’s one-person-shows are back, with students showing recorded or live-streamed 15-30 minute shows about historical figures or fictional characters. Shows start Thursday night, and will also be held Friday, May 14, at 7 p.m. and Saturday, May 15, at 5 p.m.
Sunday, May 16
Yoga and Calligraphy for Parent Child (10-18+ years)
Art House 7 (5537 Lee Highway)
Time: 10 a.m.-Noon
Art House 7 is featuring a fusion of calligraphy and yoga in a joint session with no experience in either required. Participants are required to bring their own yoga mat and water, but art supplies will be provided. The session is $80.
Spring Celebration and Plant Sale
Glencarlyn Library Garden (300 S. Kensington Street)
10 a.m.-2 p.m.
This annual sale will feature native plants along with herbs, vegetables, planting beds and more. Proceeds from the event benefit the Glencarlyn Library Demonstration Garden.
With performances canceled and potential gatherings impacted by COVID-19, a local nonprofit says that catastrophe looms for arts organizations without assistance from Arlington County.
“We all can agree that the arts have been and will continue to be a critical component of our healing, our sanity, our quality of life and our overall well-being as together we fight this virus and protect our citizens,” Embracing Arlington Arts President Janet Kopenhaver wrote.
Embracing Arlington Arts is asking the Arlington County Board to consider helping local arts organizations with financial support, assistance locating safe performance venues, and facilitating introductions with potential corporate donors.
The survey of Arlington’s arts organizations found:
- Arts organizations laid off 15% of full-time staff and 55% of part-time staff as of Nov. 1
- More than half lost 41%-60% of their income
- 43% reported that they would have to close their doors in the next 16 months without “additional financial resources”
- Only 10% believe the earliest they will be able to offer live performances is within the next four months
Despite the challenges, Kopenhaver said that artists and arts organizations keep giving back to the community with virtual performances, donations for the Arlington Food Assistance Center, arts classes, and arts kits to the Bridges for Independence’s family shelter.
“From our younger generations to our seniors to residents with disabilities to those struggling with depression or mental illness, the arts can help us survive this pandemic and be stronger when we can all come together again,” Kopenhaver said.
This column is written and sponsored by Arlington Arts/Arlington Cultural Affairs, a division of Arlington Economic Development.
With a centuries-long tradition of bringing people together in groups large and small, the impact on the Arts has been seismic.
Arlington Arts continues to pro-actively look out for resources to assist arts organizations, arts administrators and individual artists impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Here is just a sample of resources available to performers and artists of all disciplines who have been impacted by the pandemic.
COVID-19 (Coronavirus) and Arts Funding: Update and Action items from Grantmakers in the Arts.
- Field-wide responses & calls to action
- Racial equality & justice response
- Webinars, articles & resources
- Information hubs
- Rapid Response & Emergency Funds
Coronavirus Resources for Artists, Creative Workers & Organizations from Springboard for the Arts, an economic and community development organization for artists and by artists.
- Emergency Relief Fund Resources for Individuals
- Emergency Resources for Organizations
- Links to other resource pages
- Principles for Ethical Cancellation
Workforce Relief, Charitable Giving Incentives, and NEA Funding Included in Third COVID-19 Relief Package.
- The Association of Performing Arts Professionals and League of American Orchestras have sourced key points and are providing an in-depth analysis of the relief package
Resources for COVID-19 Crisis from Embracing Arlington Arts.
- Well-being of ourselves
- Financial Assistance
- Continuing Programming Through the Community
- Pro-Bono/In-Kind Expertise Available
For a full list of resources, visit and bookmark our web page. Updates will be provided as new resources become available.
The county’s arts advisory committee has made several recommendations on how Arlington can continue to provide services to its art community.
After two years of research, the advisory committee made four major recommendations:
- Move the Scenic Studio — used for building sets for theatrical productions — to S. Four Mile Run Drive as part of an “Arts and Industry District” if and when the District is established. Keep it at Gunston for now and consider using it as a “maker space” during hours in which it is otherwise unused.
- Merge the Signature Theatre and CostumeLab costume inventory and move it into 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive.
- Get rid of the county’s Mobile Stage truck and use vendors for mobile stages instead.
- Create a joint scheduling mechanism for Arlington Public Schools and arts organizations to more easily manage bookings of collaborative spaces.
The fifteen members of the advisory committee were selected in 2017 based on their familiarity and dedication to the Arlington arts community — ranging from government staff, to APS workers, to independent artists.
Following a backlash to proposed cuts to the arts in the current county budget, the Arlington County Board requested the advisory group develop a transition plan for Arlington arts programs. The group was tasked with preparing a recommendation for the County Manager by October 31.
More on the then-proposed cuts, via a budget memo from County Manager Mark Schwartz to the Board in March:
…as we spend funds on the arts, we must determine whether the dollars spent make sense for the services delivered and to make investments which can be delivered to a broader audience. Spending on new and innovative programs, such as the Arlington Art Truck, a platform that brings art to all people in the County, and our upcoming collaboration with WMATA as part of the Digital Engagement Initiative, are examples of efforts that increase accessibility and visibility of the arts at relatively modest costs.
As we continue to look at ways of bringing innovative, efficient and cost‐effective arts programs to more people, there are several long‐standing legacy programs including the CostumeLab, Scenic Studio and Mobile Stage which are rarely, if ever, provided directly by a local government. In Arlington, these services in some instances are used sparingly and episodically throughout the year, but still require intensive staff resources to operate under the current service delivery model. My proposal does not recommend removing the space or assets of these functions, but rather a re‐evaluation of how the functions are being supported by the County.
Earlier this week, local citizens group Embracing Arlington Arts released a statement supporting the CAAC’s recommendations. The group’s president, Janet Kopenhaver, and board member Sara Duke, both serve on the committee.
“After months of very productive discussions among the CAAC members, we believe we arrived at fair and equitable recommendations that were recently presented to the County Manager,” Kopenhaver said.
“It is key that the appropriate representatives sit on this committee from both the arts world and the public schools,” she continued. “Plus, they still have some critical things to iron out before we can declare the process fully successful.”
More on the group’s recommendations below, after the jump.
Photo via Flickr/Celeste Lindell
A pair of local arts groups are planning a rally outside county government headquarters Tuesday to protest proposed budget cuts to some Arlington arts programs.
The rally, dubbed “A Celebration of the Arts in Arlington,” is set to take place at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2, outside of the Ellen M. Bozman Government Center (2100 Clarendon Blvd) in Courthouse.
- Closure of the Scene Shop
- Closure of the Costume Lab
- Elimination of the Facilities Manager
- Elimination, in one year, of the Facilities Technology Services Director
- Elimination of the Audio Production Specialist
- Elimination of Supervisor of the After-Hours Building Engineers position
- Elimination of the Mobile Stage
- A $70,000 (1/3 of the total grant budget) cut to arts grant budget
A petition against the cuts, which would mostly affect theatrical productions, has gathered more than 2,750 signatures.
The rally is planned to coincide with the County Board’s public budget hearing at 7 p.m.
“Many of Arlington’s performing arts groups will be showcasing their talents and expressing their opposition to the proposed arts budget cuts,” says a press release about the rally before the hearing. “The community is invited to join the festivities and share stories about the positive impact of the arts in Arlington.”
(Updated: 3/26/19) As ARLnow reported earlier this month, County Manager Mark Schwartz has proposed significant cuts to Arlington’s subsidies for various arts programs:
“Schwartz plans to close the Costume Lab and Scenic Studio Program located at the Gunston Community Center (2700 S. Lang Street), which provide[s] scenery construction space and costume rentals for local arts groups. That will involve laying off two employees who staff the programs, a savings of about $180,000 each year.
The manager also expects to cut funding for its arts grants program by a third, dropping it from about $216,000 to $146,000 annually. The program provides some matching funds to support local artists, and both  County Board contenders [John Vihstadt & Matt de Ferranti] … pressed for increases to the fund.”
It’s commendable that Schwartz has attempted to work through the County budget, looking for excessive or unnecessary spending. Arlington’s poor track record regarding arts subsidies, including the Artisphere, the Signature Theatre bailout, and the Sewage Treatment Plant fence fiasco all show that arts subsidies remain a part of the budget that cries out for serious reforms.
But Janet Kopenhaver, Chair of the advocacy group Embracing Arlington Arts, also has a point when she highlights the magnitude of the cuts (about $500,000 out of $5.2 million) that the arts subsidy budget is being asked to absorb for FY 2020: “we remain stunned at the very high proportion the small arts budget is being asked to shoulder.”
Arlington needs a 21st century arts subsidy policy
The controversy over the Manager’s proposed cuts to Arlington’s arts subsidies exposes a larger problem: Arlington lacks a coherent 21st century arts subsidy policy–a set of easily understandable principles against which proposed cuts and proposed new spending alike can be measured.
Instead, Arlington has a confusing patchwork quilt of programs, initiatives, studies, task forces, and partial policies that make it impossible for the ordinary Arlington resident to understand when, how, and under what circumstances taxpayer money will be used or refused to promote the arts in Arlington.
Can you explain to the ordinary Arlington resident how these things fit together into a coherent statement regarding the principles County government will follow in subsidizing the arts?
- a 28-year old arts policy statement
- the role of the Arlington Commission for the Arts. See its proposed Arts and Culture Strategy here.
- the role of a section of the County government known as Arlington Arts. See its Arts Space Market Study recommendations here.
- potential new taxpayer subsidies for the existing Arts District in the Four Mile Run Valley.
A 21st century arts subsidy policy should reflect current fiscal realities
Arlington is facing a completely different fiscal environment in 2019 than it did in 1990, such as the capacity crisis in our public schools and our lack of adequate unprogrammed open green space for our surging population.
Current fiscal realities require that core services should receive priority
I strongly favor an appropriate level of continued County government public subsidies for the arts. But the arts are not a core government service in the same way as schools, parks, roads, sewers, and public safety. Because the arts are not core government services like these, the County Board should prioritize public spending for schools, parks, roads, sewers, and public safety. Is that what Mark Schwartz is doing with his proposed arts subsidy cuts? We can’t tell because we don’t have an easily understandable statement of arts subsidy principles against which to evaluate Schwartz’s proposed cuts.
After first utilizing the highest level of its public engagement guide, the Arlington County Board should adopt a 21st century arts subsidy policy.
Boston only adopted its impressive arts plan after a year-long public engagement period. Arlington should follow this public engagement example to determine the right balance for Arlington between private and public support for the arts.
Perhaps the County could create such a page by expanding the listing to include all other County subsidized arts activities that are NOT currently listed. To begin this critical, transparent community conversation, the County Board promptly should direct the County Manager to publish on one dedicated website a comprehensive, easily understandable listing of all current county-subsidized arts activities and the dollars they receive.
Arlington should not try to replicate arts options that are easily accessible elsewhere in the region. But maybe Goody’s could get its mural back.
Arlington arts advocates are sounding the alarm about planned cuts in the county’s new budget, arguing that they’ll disproportionately impact the government’s already modest arts programs.
County Manager Mark Schwartz is proposing a total of $5.2 million in spending slashes for fiscal year 2020, in tandem with a tax increase to meet some of the county’s financial challenges. About $500,000 of those cuts will targets arts-focused programs specifically, according to an analysis by the advocacy group Embracing Arlington Arts.
“We all have to sacrifice when budgets are tough,” Embracing Arlington Arts Chair Janet Kopenhaver wrote in a statement. “However, we remain stunned at the very high proportion the small arts budget is being asked to shoulder.”
Schwartz plans to close the Costume Lab and Scenic Studio Program located at the Gunston Community Center (2700 S. Lang Street), which provide scenery construction space and costume rentals for local arts groups. That will involving laying off two employees who staff the programs, a savings of about $180,000 each year.
The manager also expects to cut funding for its arts grant program by a third, dropping it from about $216,000 to $146,000 annually. The program provides some matching funds to support local artists, and both County Board contenders last year pressed for increases to the fund.
Kopenhaver group says that would make the county’s budget for the grant program “the lowest in the region.”
The county would also ditch the use of its mobile performance stage, which is available for rent, under Schwartz’s proposal.
The Cultural Affairs Division of the county’s economic development arm would also lose an audio production specialist who worked on county events, and the facility manager and facility technology services director working at the county’s arts studio at 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive. Schwartz expects existing staff could absorb the responsibilities of those employees, who are responsible for managing the space as a variety of different arts groups make use of it.
Finally, Kopenhaver’s group is also concerned about the proposed layoff of a supervisor of after-hours building engineers, who supervises building maintenance workers. Many county arts groups rely on county facilities after normal business hours for performance space.
In all, the arts advocates estimate that cultural affairs and arts program take up about one tenth of one percent of the county’s budget — Schwartz’s proposed cuts are much larger than that for arts-related services.
“In the end, the tiny arts program is being held accountable for a share of this year’s budget shortfall that is 62.5 times greater than its share of the fiscal year 2019 county budget,” Kopenhaver wrote. “If the cuts were proportional to the actual budget, then the cuts to the arts would be only $8,000.”
Embracing Arlington Arts notes that a recent study found that the arts generate $18 million in economic activity for the county, meaning that cuts to the arts budget could well have an impact on the county’s tax revenue.
The Board will evaluate Schwartz’s proposal over the next few months, while also keeping a close eye on school needs as well — Superintendent Patrick Murphy is already warning that the school system will face painful cuts unless the Board approves a substantial tax hike.
Officials are scheduled to finalize the budget in late April.
Photo via Arlington Arts
Arlington Agenda is a listing of interesting events for the week ahead in Arlington County. If you’d like to see your event featured, fill out the event submission form.
Also, be sure to check out our event calendar.
Tuesday, Oct. 2
Secure the Vote: Safeguarding Our Elections – A Panel Discussion
Spaces (1101 Wilson Blvd)
Time: 7-8:30 p.m.
The League of Women Voters of Arlington is hosting a discussion led by four top experts in election security. The panel discussion is open to the public at no charge. Free tickets can be obtained online.
Thursday, Oct. 4
2nd Annual Celebration of the Arts in Arlington
Mercedes Benz in Arlington (585 North Glebe Road)
Time: 7-10 p.m.
The Celebration of the Arts in Arlington is a fundraiser for the Embracing Arlington Arts capital campaign. Tickets are $50 and purchasable online. Attendees wearing artwork costumes could win a $250 car detail voucher or a $75 restaurant coupon.
Social Walk + Happy Hour on Lee Highway
Thirsty Bernie (2163 N Glebe Rd)
Time: 5:30-8 p.m.
This month, Walk Arlington and Lee Highway Alliance are hosting a stroll along Lee Highway. The event is free for people of all ages and abilities and registration for the event is required.
Friday, Oct. 5
Arlington Urban Agriculture Summit
St. Andrews Church (4000 Lorcom Lane)
Time: 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m.
The symposium will focus on how agriculture contributes to our urban quality of life, featuring discussions on urban farming innovations; how to grow a successful food garden; and big picture policy and economic issues. Registration available online.
Saturday, Oct. 6
Family Fall Festival*
Saint Ann School (980 North Frederick Street)
Time: 10 a.m.-4p.m.
The Annual Family Fall Festival will have rides, games, bounces, face-painting and a cakewalk contest for the kids. For adults, there’s a wine walk, beer garden and live music, plus plenty of food. Admission and parking are free.
The Daily Domestic Vintage Pop-Up Shop
825 S. Barton St.
Time: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.
Vintage pop-up shop featuring refurbished and hand-painted antique and vintage furniture, upcycled items and vintage-inspired housewares. 10% of sales will benefit Space of Her Own (SOHO).
*Denotes featured (sponsored) event
In a forum focused on the county’s arts scene, hosted by Embracing Arlington Arts and Arlington Independent Media earlier this month, both independent incumbent John Vihstadt and Democratic nominee Matt de Ferranti emphasized that the arts have such a vital role to play in the county’s cultural and economic health that the county needs to subsidize local programs.
Furthermore, both candidates want to see the county restore the $30,000 the Board slashed from the new year’s budget in funding for “Challenge Grants,” which provide some matching funds for artists who attract private donations. Vihstadt and de Ferranti both advocated for even increasing the amount offered through the program in future budget cycles, even with the county facing an uncertain financial future due to Metro funding obligations and a persistently high office vacancy rate.
Though the forum was light on stark disagreements between the two, Vihstadt painted the private sector as having an especially large role to play in supporting the arts. Though he remains confident the county will be able to eventually increase grant funding, he cautioned that Arlington’s “economic headwinds” will inevitably limit what the county can do.
“The arts are going to have to step up to the plate a bit, maybe to a greater degree than the art community has, in terms of really leveraging those private sector resources,” Vihstadt said. “The government can be a catalyst, it can help with climate change of a sort, but the government can’t do it all.”
He pointed out that the Board already took one step in the direction of encouraging artists to embrace the private sector when it restored $70,000 in funding for AIM originally set to be cut from the fiscal 2019 budget, which came with the condition that the organization pursue matching funding from donors.
“That was controversial, but I felt it was the right thing to do to encourage and really make sure that AIM would further reach out into that community and bring in those private sector dollars,” Vihstadt said.
De Ferranti says he was certainly glad to see those AIM cuts reversed, calling them “short sighted,” but he was more willing to see a role for direct county spending, connecting the success of Arlington’s arts scene to its economic prosperity.
“If we view this as a zero-sum game, then Arlington will lose in the long term,” de Ferranti said. “We have to see it as how we can grow together and have the vision to find the right investments to move us forward so the budget isn’t so tight… We have to think about, how do we create an environment where millenials don’t want to go to the Wharf and the Anthem, but want to stay in Crystal City, or at least consider it.”
Beyond direct subsidies, de Ferranti also expects the county can do more to help artists afford to live in Arlington. For instance, he pointed to the Maggie Walker Community Land Trust in Richmond as a model for the sort of program the county could experiment with to make home ownership more affordable — the nonprofit acquires single-family homes to sell to qualified buyers at affordable prices, but maintains ownership of the land itself. That helps the nonprofit reap the benefit of any increase in market value when owners decide to sell, which it uses to keep prices affordable going forward.
De Ferranti foresees the county creating a similar system matching artists, or even groups of artists in co-op communities, with affordable homes.
“Artists desperately want to live here… but in Arlington, being middle class is not easy,” de Ferranti said. “We need to make sure we’re caring for folks who need the chance to get up that economic ladder.”
Yet Vihstadt and de Ferranti both expressed confidence that space in the Four Mile Run valley in Nauck will someday be home to more affordable studio space for artists of all stripes. Though the creation of an “arts district” in the area has at times stirred controversy throughout a lengthy planning process for the valley, both candidates say they feel such a solution is the right fit for its future.
“We will have an arts district in harmony with the other uses around that park area, and we’ll have that synergy,” Vihstadt said.
Photo via YouTube