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Morning Notes

‘Coffee With a Cop’ Comes to Clarendon, Pentagon City — The Arlington County Police Department is hosting a pair of “Coffee with a Cop” events later this month, at a Starbucks in Pentagon City and Northside Social in Clarendon. In a press release, ACPD said it “is committed to developing and maintaining strong relationships with those we serve, a vital component to ensuring the public’s trust.” [Arlington County]

Potomac Roaring Over Great Falls — Those within earshot of the Potomac River are being treated to an especially loud roar this week as the rain-swollen river “churned and even exploded into the air at Great Falls.” It also flooded parts of Alexandria and the Georgetown riverfront. [Washington Post, Twitter, Twitter]

Artisphere Closing Anniversary — It has been three years since Artisphere closed its doors in Rosslyn. The former county-funded arts venue is now a co-working and events space.

Photo courtesy @jimcollierjr

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‘Spaces’ Co-Working Space Now Open in Former Artisphere in Rosslyn

The former Artisphere space in Rosslyn has a new lease on life, as co-working area Spaces opened earlier this week.

Spaces is located at 1101 Wilson Blvd, in a building owned by Monday Properties. The chain’s Rosslyn location offers 303 desks in a 37,000-square-foot office space. Members can use any workstation, or can pay more to reserve one. Suites are also available for small businesses. Up to 800 members can be accommodated.

A large open area with a full kitchen, bar/café and eight beer taps can be reserved for meetings and parties, and doubles as a co-working space when not in use for events.

Members can also access 9,000 square feet of outdoor space, including a large balcony, while its upper atrium connects to Rosslyn’s Freedom Park.

At a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, Rosslyn Business Improvement District president and CEO Mary-Claire Burick said the new co-working space, one of several open or planning to open in Arlington, will foster community.

“We love how Spaces encourages a sense of community with its design, programs and overall empowering atmosphere,” Burick said. “That’s what we’re all about here in Rosslyn, so I know you and your clients will feel right at home. I want you to know that you have the full support of the Rosslyn business community, because when you succeed, we all succeed.”

Photos via Mary Parker Architectural Photography, courtesy of Monday Properties. Disclosure: Monday Properties is an ARLnow advertiser.

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‘Spaces’ Coworking Space Opening This Fall in Fmr. Artisphere

A large new coworking space will breathe new life into the former Artisphere in Rosslyn this fall.

Coworking firm Spaces expects to open its new Artisphere location in November. The location will feature 22,000 square feet of office space, an event space, an outdoor patio and a gym with showers, we’re told.

Renderings show sleekly-designed communal spaces designed for collaborative work.

“Take your creativity to new levels in uniquely inspired workspace in Rosslyn’s vibrant urban sector,” the Spaces website says. “The Artisphere’s sophisticated modern design cultivates an empowering social atmosphere that fuels innovative thinking.”

In April, Spaces opened a large coworking space in D.C.’s Uline Arena

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JUST IN: Fmr. Artisphere to Become 45,000 Square Foot Co-Working Space

Artisphere during the Silver Clouds exhibitThe former Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn will get a new life as a 45,000 square foot co-working space, its owner announced today.

The building at 1101 Wilson Boulevard will host a “flexible workspace,” called “Spaces,” from office space provider Regus, according to a news release from real estate firm Monday Properties.

Geared toward tech businesses, the redeveloped property will have an open layout that is intended to encourage collaboration among workers.

“Co-working is becoming increasingly popular with millennials and those who prefer a more flexible workspace,” Monday Properties president Tim Helmig said in a statement. “1101 Wilson Boulevard, with its diverse services and prime location, is the right home for Spaces and for other cutting edge firms that are looking to optimize and effectively grow their businesses.”

Regus and Monday Properties are working to transform the former Artisphere building over the next year. It wasn’t immediately clear when the co-working space will open.

When the co-working space does open, it will compete with Arlington-based MakeOffices, which has a location in a Monday Properties building at 1400 Key Boulevard in Rosslyn.

Arlington County terminated its lease on the Artisphere space last fall. Before the county used the building, it housed the Newseum.

The full press release, after the jump.

Monday Properties announced today that the global provider of flexible workspaces, Regus, will be leasing 45,000 square feet for its SPACES platform – in a highly anticipated repositioning of the former Artisphere space located at 1101 Wilson Boulevard. The SPACES concept represents the firm’s most innovative and technology oriented product line in its vast array of co-working offerings which has been successfully introduced in markets throughout the United States, Europe and Australia.

While recognized as an industry leader in the more traditionalized, professional services office configurations, the rapidly expanding SPACES concept clearly targets technology driven firms and those looking for flexible, open layouts with an abundance of collaborative work space. SPACES’ lease at 1101 Wilson Boulevard is emblematic of how today’s Rosslyn is attracting businesses and corporations of all sizes, and continues a streak of landmark leases completed in the area. Following the SPACES transaction, Monday Properties, has now completed new and renewal leases totaling over 390,000 square feet in Rosslyn in 2016.

“Co-working is becoming increasingly popular with millennials and those who prefer a more flexible workspace,” said Tim Helmig, president and chief operating officer of Monday Properties. “1101 Wilson Boulevard, with its diverse services and prime location, is the right home for SPACES and for other cutting edge firms that are looking to optimize and effectively grow their businesses. Further, this transaction will complement the pending delivery of Central Place and its associated amenities in the Rosslyn core. The overall level of energy and activation that SPACES will bring to the Rosslyn market is truly unprecedented and continues a strong 12-month leasing movement currently occurring in the office sector. “

Over the next year, Monday Properties and SPACES plan to make extensive enhancements to the 45,000 square feet of property. The open-air architecture of 1101 Wilson Boulevard will serve as a one-of-a-kind backdrop and include an array of first-class upgrades ranging from expansive new windows to highlight premier views of the Potomac River and Washington, D.C. to enhancing the vast indoor/outdoor terrace environment. Once completed, the innovative, open-work space will allow employees to take advantage of the numerous collaborative common areas in the building.

The brokers: REGUS was represented by Jake Katz, Brannan Moss and Jennifer Ziegler of JLL. John Wharton and Deniz Yener represented Monday Properties.

About Monday Properties:
Monday Properties is a dynamic real estate investment firm that operates each property within its portfolio. Founded in 1998, the company is an owner, operator and developer of real estate with a primary focus on supplied constrained markets and value add real estate opportunities in growth markets. Since 2002, Monday Properties has completed over $12 billion in over 50 separate transactions, representing 27 million square feet. Monday Properties co-invests its own capital alongside its partners and investors, creating a clear alignment of interest and an incentive to realize value.

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County Board to Consider Purchase of Arts Truck

2016 Arlington County BoardA mobile art and performance venue may be coming to Arlington.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday is set to consider the purchase of an “arts truck.” In a staff report, officials said the truck could bring the arts to various locations across the country, partially filling the void left by the closure of the Artisphere in Rosslyn.

“When closing the Artisphere, the County Manager and County Board made a commitment to continue programming for artistic and cultural events, specifically through the use of mobile and periodic programming along major commercial corridors,” says the staff report. “Cultural Affairs staff believes that an Arts Truck that delivers innovative, professionally-curated pop-up style arts events is an excellent mechanism for expanding the reach of arts, entertainment and culture throughout the Arlington community.”

Potential arts truck programming could include:

  • “Pop-up visual arts exhibits”
  • “Lunchtime mini-concerts”
  • “Lounge and learn educational and civic programming”
  • “Temporary public art activities”

The truck is expected to cost about $55,000. Another $14,000 is being allocated for one-time costs and “pilot programming.”

Nearly $30,000 of the costs is being provided by donations that were made to Artisphere but never spent. Close to $40,000 is being provided by existing Arlington County arts funds.

“While the Artisphere was in operation, the [Arlington Community Foundation], on behalf of the County, managed a fund dedicated to Artisphere donations,” says the staff report. “Now that the Artisphere has closed, the remaining balance in the fund must be used in a manner consistent with the intent of the fund – to support innovative cultural programming throughout the County. After consulting with both ACF and public stakeholders, Cultural Affairs staff have determined that an Arts Truck providing such cultural programming in the major commercial corridors would broaden the reach of arts in the community and complement existing arts outreach.”

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UPDATED: Artisphere’s Dome Is Not Doomed

Reflection of the Artisphere dome in Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk)

(Updated at 12:40 p.m.) One of the most recognizable features of the former Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn is not on the chopping block, after all.

On its Nov. 14 meeting agenda, the Arlington County Board is scheduled to consider a site plan amendment for 1101 Wilson Blvd, “relating to the demolition” of the Artisphere dome.

The county terminated its lease on the Artisphere space last month, five years after the center first opened. Previously used by the Newseum, when it was located in Rosslyn, the dome theater may narrow down the kind of tenants property owner Monday Properties can attract.

From a public notice about the site plan amendment:

SP# 89 1101 Wilson Owner, LLC to delete Condition #4 relating to demolition of dome structure on Wilson Boulevard; in C-O zoning district under ACZO §15.5. Property is approximately 60,700 sq. ft.; located at 1101 Wilson Blvd.; and is identified as RPC# 16-039-002; -003; -021. Applicable Policies: GLUP “High” Office-Apartment-Hotel; Rosslyn Sector Plan.

However, county officials now say that the dome is not in danger, at least for now.

From Helen Duong, the Chief Marketing Officer for Arlington’s Dept. of Community Planning, Housing and Development:

This condition currently requires that the Newseum Dome be demolished if the County moves forward with construction of the Loop Road in Rosslyn (the Dome is located partially within what would have been the right of way for the Loop Road). Given adoption of the new Rosslyn Sector Plan this past summer, in which the Loop Road concept was abandoned, there is no longer a need to demolish the dome, and therefore the property owner wants the condition requiring demolition removed. As is my understanding, Monday Properties does not want to demolish the dome, but would like to market the space without the encumbrances required by Cond. #4.

Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk

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County Board Terminates Lease with Artisphere

Artisphere during the Silver Clouds exhibitA little more than five years after Artisphere opened, the doors are shutting for good on what was once touted to be Arlington’s cultural crown jewel.

Without any discussion, the County Board unanimously voted to end the county’s lease for the Rosslyn space formerly occupied by Artisphere during its meeting last night. Artisphere, which opened on Oct. 10, 2010, shut is doors in June 2015, following financial problems.

It will cost the county $447,436.24 in payments to break the lease, which will end on Oct, 31. The lease on the property was originally written with an expiration date in April 2023.

Negotiations with landlord Monday Properties resulted in about $100,000 in savings on the lease termination, county staff said. Utilities and maintenance for the space cost the county nearly $1 million per year.

At this time, the county has not calculated the final cost for closing the cultural center, county staff said.

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County Board to Vote on Artisphere Lease Termination

Photo taken during the Artisphere press preview 10/6/10The Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn closed in June, but on Saturday the County Board is expected to shut the door for good by terminating Artisphere’s lease.

Arlington County leased the 62,000 square foot former Newseum space at 1101 Wilson Blvd in November 2008. It opened Artisphere on Oct. 10, 2010.

Intractable financial losses at Artisphere — contrary to rosy projections made prior to the center’s opening — combined with a lack of local community participation to doom it. An effort to have the Artisphere space used for a tech incubator and conference center apparently fell through, leading to the lease termination recommendation from county staff.

Not helping matters: it costs about $1 million per year to maintain the space, including electricity, heating and air conditioning costs. Building owner Monday Properties, which gave the space to Arlington virtually rent free, will now be free to attempt to find a new tenant.

Under the staff recommendation, the lease will be terminated on Oct. 31. Arlington County will owe the landlord payments totaling $447,436.24 in order to exercise the early lease termination. (The lease was originally slated to end in April 2023.)

Negotiations regarding the early lease termination have cut the county’s total costs by more than $100,000, staff said.

The money will come from $1.3 million in funding already allocated by the County Board for the closing of Artisphere. The total cost of the facility’s shuttering is not yet available.

“Other expenses associated with the closure of the facility are still processing and a final estimate of the total closure costs will not be available until all invoicing is complete and internal accounts are reconciled,” county staff wrote.

The County Board will consider the lease termination at its meeting this coming Saturday.

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Morning Notes

Spiderwebs in the sun (Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley)

Arlington, VHC Agree to Land Swap Terms — Arlington County and Virginia Hospital Center have preliminarily agreed to terms on a future land deal that would give the hospital extra room to expand. The deal would swap the county’s Edison Complex, next to the hospital, for hospital-owned property elsewhere and/or cash and other considerations. The County Board will vote on a proposed Letter of Intent on Sept. 24. [Arlington County]

Arlington Teen Mauled by Pit Bull — A 17-year-old was mauled by a pit bull in his home on 8th Street S., police said. The house was reportedly being used as a babysitting service for pit bulls and the boy suffered serious injuries after trying to break up a fight between two of the dogs. [NBC Washington]

Artisphere Still in County Hands — Arlington County and Monday Properties have not yet finalized a lease termination for the former Artisphere space in Rosslyn. While there has been some talk of a tech-related use for the massive, airy space — which costs $1 million per year just for heating, cooling and utilities — it’s as yet unclear what, if anything, will actually replace Artisphere. [DCist]

Arlington Loses Large Potential Tenant — Despite a push from Arlington County and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, The Advisory Board Co. will be staying in D.C. Local and state officials had hoped to woo the publicly traded company to the vacant 1812 N. Moore Street tower in Rosslyn, but in the end a $60 million incentive package offered by D.C. convinced the company to move to a New York Ave NW address near the convention center. [Washington Business Journal]

Tonight: E.T. Showing at the Planetarium — The Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium will kick off their fall fundraising festival this weekend with a movie screening tonight. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial will be showing at the planetarium starting at 7 p.m. tonight. Other events are planned for Saturday and Sunday. [Friends of Arlington’s Planetarium]

Fall Festival at Bluemont Park — On Saturday, Bluemont Park will host its free Fall Festival, featuring activities for all ages, including cornhole, bocce, a moon bounce, relay races and face painting. [Facebook]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Donnellan, Artisphere Staff Bid Farewell on Last Day

County Manager Barbara Donnellan presents her FY 2014 budget on Feb. 20, 2013Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan and the staff of Artisphere are saying farewell.

Today is Donnellan’s last day as the top executive in Arlington County government, before her retirement, which was announced in March.

Deputy County Manager Mark Schwartz will serve as acting county manager while the county continues to conduct a nationwide search for Donnellan’s permanent replacement.

Donnellan sent the following goodbye memo to county staff this afternoon, after spending much of the morning walking around county government headquarters and saying goodbye to staffers in person.

Friends: I could not leave today without thanking you all for your hard work and your many contributions that have helped make Arlington a great community.

How quickly thirty-one-and-a-half years have flown by. It has been an amazing ride. Together, we have accomplished so much. For me, the most satisfying aspect of this job has been the opportunity to come to work each day and interact with such a talented group of people. But all great things must come to an end.

Tomorrow, I start a new chapter, and I’m looking forward to exploring new opportunities. Under Mark Schwartz’s able leadership, I know that you will continue to do great things.

Again, thank you for everything. It has been such a privilege.

All the best,

Barbara

Also bidding adieu is Artisphere, which is set to permanently close its doors after today.

The staff of the cultural center in Rosslyn sounded a proud, defiant note in a goodbye message sent to its email list this afternoon. That note is below, after the jump.

Artisphere opened to great fanfare on 10/10/10 as a testament to Arlington County’s longstanding commitment to the arts. During its four and a half year lifespan Artisphere presented nearly one thousand unique artistic programs, across all artistic disciplines–often blurring the lines between them. Its mission was unique: to present visual arts, new media and performing arts all under one roof.

To adjust for the significant costs associated with its physical structure, Artisphere’s business model morphed over time. However, its unswerving dedication to artistic excellence remained constant. We wish to thank our community and the many individuals who contributed to Artisphere’s many successes. From the wonder of Andy Warhol’s Silver Clouds exhibition, to the breathtaking range of international musicians we presented from all over the world, we have offered a depth and breadth of contemporary art programming that this region has not experienced under one roof.

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. While Artisphere will no longer continue as an institution, the ideas and values championed by Artisphere will continue to be supported by Arlington County. In fact, several of the venue’s acclaimed curatorial staff are moving back to Arlington’s award-winning Cultural Affairs Division, including:

Cynthia Connolly, visual arts curator
Sarah Lissabet, programming specialist
Sharon Raphael, special events director
Josh Stoltzfus, programming director
Luis Chavesta, technical staff

Ryan Holladay, Artisphere’s New Media Curator, has decided to move on to his next adventure, but the position also is returning to Arlington Cultural Affairs.

We encourage you to visit the ArlingtonArts.org website to stay abreast of upcoming arts and cultural programming. You will continue to receive occasional updates and emails from Arlington Cultural Affairs, although you may opt out at any time.

In the meantime we leave you with a simple quote from Artisphere’s former Executive Director, José A. Ortiz:

“Art is not easy. Art is hard. Art is more than hanging a picture on a wall.”
#artforever

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Artisphere Spent $1 Million Marketing to Arts Aficionados

Artisphere during the Silver Clouds exhibit

Artisphere hosted its final performances this past weekend, as it prepares to close for good at the end of the month. Supporters decry the closure as the county government prioritizing penny pinching over the arts. But Artisphere’s financial losses may have been secondary to another problem: lack of community engagement.

The cultural center in Rosslyn spent more than $1 million on marketing over four and a half years, largely targeting D.C. area arts aficionados with newspaper ads. The strategy paid off with sold-out niche concerts and events, but failed to attract the loyalty of many Arlington residents who have a more casual appreciation for the arts.

Our Lady of the Vanishing Arts, photo courtesy of ArtisphereInstead of the original vision of a hub for local arts groups and a community hangout, complete with a WiFi cafe, Artisphere became more of a regional draw for one-off performances. Some 75 percent of its audience came from outside Arlington and 83 percent of its artists from outside Virginia, according to a 2014 report.

After hastily opening on the novelty date of 10/10/10, before an executive director or a marketing director could even be hired, Artisphere’s finances proved to be a fiasco. Wildly over-optimistic expectations gave way to the realization that the center would only make a quarter of its projected visitor revenue in the first year. That, in turn, sparked community criticism, set off backtracking by policymakers and led to a series of changes that watered down community participation.

The cafe closed, Artisphere focused more on event rentals and a popular local theater company was booted out.

It didn’t help that Artisphere’s multitude of performance venues were small and, as officials figured out after opening, couldn’t host simultaneous events due to noise bleed.

The relative lack of participation from taxpaying Arlington residents and artists, in the end, may have been Artisphere’s biggest downfall. When Artisphere hit the chopping block, few residents showed up at County Board meetings to speak in its defense.

Artisphere visitors FY 2014“That’s exactly part of the issue,” said retiring Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan, in a May interview. “At some levels, it wasn’t reaching our community in such a way that won their support.”

(An online petition to save Artisphere gathered nearly the same number of signatures as a recent petition to save a large oak tree on N. Nottingham Street.)

Donnellan and the County Board faced criticism in the local arts world for the decision, with letters to the editor, the chair of the Arlington Commission for the Arts and even a Washington City Paper cover story implying that the Board was naive in closing Artisphere just because it was losing money.

“Artisphere’s closure is symptomatic of a much larger political view of culture in which the arts are important to community building, but funding them is not,” the City Paper wrote. It along with the Washington Post were the beneficiaries of 55 percent of Artisphere’s marketing budget.

But there was more that went into the decision to close than just dollars and cents. Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said Artisphere was “able to create some wonderful shows” after “‘we got some of the right programming people in place,” but “there was a struggle in terms of what type of place [Artisphere] was going to be.”

Photo from the Here Cafe + Bar opening at Artisphere“Within our Cultural Affairs department there was a real desire to be cutting edge and to fill a niche they perceived in the D.C. arts scene,” Hynes said. “So people on the way up” were booked, but “those are people who who are developing an audience, not those who have an audience.”

There was discussion of hosting “community Saturdays” — with performances from school groups and other community-driven activities — “where we get people familiar with coming here because their kid is performing here.”

“But that didn’t fit with the image of what people thought of as [Artisphere],” Hynes said. “So I do think that audience was pretty constrained in terms of all of Arlington.”

“In the end we collectively didn’t see as much of an opportunity for full community participation here than we see in some other things we do,” Hynes said of the decision to close Artisphere and send about half of its budget back into other arts programming around Arlington. “When a locality is putting its tax money into helping the production of art, we have some obligation to consider how we give as many people in our community as possible the opportunity to consume good art.”

Artisphere and Rosslyn signs on a streetlampArtisphere’s regional focus was a carefully thought-out feature, not a bug. In addition to its artistic goals, Artisphere was also conceived as an economic development tool for Rosslyn. The Rosslyn BID contributed $1 million to the center’s startup costs and another $300,000 per year to its operating budget for that purpose. Artisphere’s FY 2014 annual report highlighted that it’s “a regional draw… underscoring Artisphere’s role as an economic driver for its community.”

Barry Halvorson, Artisphere’s Director of Communications and Marketing, defended the decision to focus on regional arts consumers and unique programming instead of a more mainstream or more community-focused strategy.

“We are trying to serve a community of arts-goers and we’ve been very successful in doing that and we’ve gotten a lot of attention in the press,” Halvorson told ARLnow.com in April. “If you go to the Washington Post or the Washington City Paper, there’s just a ton of coverage that we’ve gotten on our programming in large part because it’s so novel in this market.”

Opening of "Frida Kahlo: Her Photos" at Artisphere“I think maybe the readership of ARLnow might be a bit different than maybe the arts section of the Washington Post,” Halvorson continued. “We’re trying to go after the people who are reading the arts section. That might be the reason why ARLnow commenters are not seeing our materials. Because we are out there, editorially and advertising-wise. We’re reaching the arts market here.”

Halvorson said Artisphere was an artistic success, with critically acclaimed programming and shows averaging 70-75 percent audience capacity, above industry averages, since the center’s inception. Most of its spring shows were sold out.

“That is a misperception in the community that our events are not well attended,” he said. “All throughout our nearly five year history [events] have been very well attended. If anything right now we’re riding this great wave where we’re really firing on full cylinders.”

Halvorson was emphatic that the focus on Artisphere’s finances by the media missed the point.

“When you really look at the editorial about Artisphere, how many times has the phrase ‘the money-losing Artisphere’ been used?” he asked. “You wouldn’t refer to the Kennedy Center as the ‘money-losing Kennedy Center,’ when in fact it is losing money. Every arts organization in town is in fact a money-losing venture. That’s just the nature of being a non-profit. Every arts organization has a form of subsidy, including donations from private donating. In the case of the Artisphere, that’s taxpayer funding.”

Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds at Artisphere“I have to be brutally honest that your publication has not been terribly helpful in that regard,” Halvorson added. “When you’re talking about an arts organization, there are many different measures of success,” including attendance and artistic impact.

(A total of 288 ARLnow.com articles include a reference to Artisphere. Most were previews of events, exhibits or concerts taking place at the facility.)

Halvorson said Artisphere would have been in better shape had its space — provided rent-free by building owner Monday Properties — been smaller and more efficient. Electricity, heating and air conditioning in the 63,000 square foot facility alone cost about $1 million per year.

“This has been a very expensive building to operate,” he said. “The building is 25 years old. Escalators, elevators are breaking down and expensive. It’s been somewhat of a minor miracle that we’ve been able to keep this building running at the level it’s at.”

Donnellan said the decision to recommend closing Artisphere as “a very, very difficult choice,” and she only made the decision after “months” of discussions  with Artisphere staff, Arlington Economic Development officials and Rosslyn property owners, about possible ways to gain a broader audience.

“You have to make decisions that are long term sustainable,” she said. “Artisphere was not gaining money and not sustaining itself. But the main thing was that it had lost the support of the community and the Board and it became very difficult to argue its long term sustainability in these economic times. It wasn’t getting a lot of support… it had never achieved the foot traffic needed.”

Eighth District Congressional Art Competition at Artisphere“Honestly I do believe that it could have been successful,” Donnellan said. “But given the economic times of Rosslyn, with the amount of construction going on down there and the economy in and of itself, it was just not an entity that was going to grow at a pace where it was something that we would have said ‘wow, this is something that we have to keep going.'”

Could Artisphere have gained more attendees and local support with more marketing and more community visibility? It’s unclear.

Artisphere spent only about $200,000 per year on marketing. Over the course of almost five years, most of that went to regional media organizations: more than $400,000 to the Washington Post, $170,000 to the Washington City Paper, $71,000 to WJLA/Newschannel 8, $26,000 to BrightestYoungThings.com, $19,000 to the Washington Examiner, $17,000 to Washington Parent magazine.

(You can view sorted and unsorted PDF copies of Artisphere’s line item marketing expenses, obtained by ARLnow.com under the Freedom of Information Act.)

Halvorson said Artisphere made the most of what it had.

“Our [annual] marketing budget is $200,000 for 140 artistic programs,” he said. “I challenge you to find an arts organization with a lower per program budget. If the question is, if I were to do this over again, would I have gone for a broader more scattershot approach versus a more targeted approach, no I would not.”

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Artisphere to Close With Sarcastic Sendoff

Our Lady of the Vanishing Arts, photo courtesy of Artisphere

A new art piece will lambast the closure of Artisphere on the venue’s final day of live performance.

Artist Carolina Mayorga can neither confirm nor deny that she will assume the form of the Virgin Mary apparition during a performance titled “Our Lady of the Vanishing Arts.” But Mayorga, who’s dressed as the holy figure before, says there’s a good possibility a divine apparition could materialize at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 6.

“[The Virgin Mary] is thinking about making an apparition at Artisphere,” Mayorga says, chuckling. “She might appear. She’s thinking about it.”

During the performance piece, which lasts an hour and precedes a musical performance by Stooges Brass Band and Black Masala, Mayorga will perform mock holy rituals and anoint Artisphere attendees.

“I have these cardboard letters that spell the word art,” explains Mayorga. “and I’m going to burn them in a little metal tray, mix that with oil, and use a brush to [paint dollar signs on attendees’ foreheads].”

A live organist will play Catholic mass classics such as “Ave Maria” alongside the performance.

“I call it Ash Saturday,” says Mayorga.

The point of the performance, explains Mayorga, isn’t to belittle religion. Instead, it’s to mourn the loss of a local artistic institution.

“I benefitted from Artisphere for a long time,” she says. “I did an artist in residency with them in 2013. They’ve always been supportive of my work.”

Some of the art from Mayorga’s residency still clings to the gallery’s walls as a permanent installation.

“When you want to do a special performance, you need a venue like Artisphere,” Mayorga says. “It really hurts to lose it.”

Photo courtesy of Artisphere.

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Artisphere: Most Shows in Final Months Sold Out

"The Pigeoning" (photo courtesy Artisphere)In precisely two months, Artisphere will end its five-year run, but it appears to be going out with a bang.

According to Artisphere Director of Marketing and Communications Barry Halvorson, most of Artisphere’s shows this spring have sold out. But then, he said, that’s not altogether a new phenomenon for the almost-five-year-old arts center.

“Over the last three years or so, we have really been hitting our stride,” Halvorson said. “We’re on track to come ahead slightly of last year. We’ve been performing to an average of 75 percent capacity. That’s above industry average.”

Despite the fact that Artisphere has consistently lost money every year of existence, Halvorson it’s been by all accounts a successful arts venture. He challenges the notion that the Artisphere is a $2.2-million-a-year sunk investment.

“You wouldn’t refer to the Kennedy Center as the ‘money-losing Kennedy Center’ when in fact it is the money-losing Kennedy Center,” Halvorson said. “Every arts organization in town is a money-losing venture… It’s almost a minor miracle that we’ve been able to really run it as well as we’ve been running it.”

Acting Artisphere Director Josh Stoltzfus said the venue has been able to achieve that by targeting international musicians and artists, catering to the D.C. area’s global diversity of heritage.

“In a lot of ways, international music has had a very strong track record in this market,” he said. “The larger Metro area, we have people from all over the world that live and work in this area, people either from all those countries or who were stationed there. We’re trying to reflect the community we serve.”

Artisphere has hosted acts like a controversial Ugandan play, Yiddish punk music, an eight-hour endurance performance and more than 100 belly-dancers. Its 62,000-square-foot space has caused sky-high utilities bills, but the unique venue has allowed performance-goers to see art installations before taking in the eclectic, international performers.

“We’ve really tried to become sort of the go-to presenter of international music in this market,” Halvorson said. “We’ve been largely successful in doing that.”

In the final two months, the venue’s remaining staff is not planning a big grand finale, but rather they will continue to put on shows most weeks; Halvorson said May will one of the busiest months they’ve ever had. Next Saturday, they will be screening a “live documentary” called the Measure of All Things in the Dome Theatre.

That documentary will be cued up and narrated on stage by its Academy Award-Nominated Director Sam Green, and will be accompanied by a live band. The documentary will focus on the lives of people in the Guinness Book of World Records, like the world’s tallest man and the world’s longest hair.

“That’s a great example of programs that is sort of representative of what Artisphere presents,” Halvorson said. “It’s difficult to describe and boil down, but that’s what we’re doing.”

Linda Hesh, the artist who installed a piece of art when Artisphere opened, called “Art Every Day” will return for another installation this spring that will take pieces of art tied to the venue and spread them across the community. After that, the doors will lock and the county will decide what comes next for the space.

“While it’s true that they physical building is closing,” Stoltzfus said, “the ideas that Artisphere has put forth in the community will last for the years to come.”

File photo courtesy Artisphere

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Defunded Artisphere’s Future to be Decided by July

Artisphere signThe Arlington County Board officially canceled the Artisphere project last night, making June 30 the grand finale for Rosslyn’s critically acclaimed but money-losing arts and cultural center.

June 30 is also the deadline the County Board has set for staff to return with a recommendation for next steps for the space, coinciding with the end of Fiscal Year 2015 and the last performances at Artisphere.

Arlington’s lease for the 62,000-square-foot space ends in April 2023, according to Deputy County Manager Carol Mitten, but the County Board could elect to cancel its agreement with owner Monday Properties and hand them back the unique space.

No formal proposals for the center have come forward, but Mitten said the county has had “lots of informal conversations” with outside parties. The cancellation of Artisphere will save taxpayers $2.3 million in FY 2016, and any scheming for the next steps won’t be coming from the county.

“If someone has an idea, they need to translate that into a proposal, because the county isn’t going to come up with a proposal of our own,” Mitten said yesterday. “The desire is that we get out of the business of subsidizing the use of this space… We have this block of one-time money to close out our obligations under the lease, and anything else the county were to do would really involve an outside entity.”

The only public idea to this point has been the vision of MoDev, a software developer conference company, to transform Artisphere into a tech incubator and conference center. MoDev CEO Pete Erickson told ARLnow.com this week that he is putting together a proposal, but he’s not alone.

“I heard that there are four different parties interested in the space, all with a technology center vision, which is awesome,” he said. “It doesn’t mean a deal will get done as the county could then decide to vacate the lease and put it in Monday Properties’ hands. If this happens, this would be bad for Arlington as the benefits of the existing lease would be away and put way more pressure on a new tenant and the building owner than would be necessary.”

According to Rosslyn Business Improvement District President Mary-Claire Burick, a Chinese business delegation recently toured the space and was intrigued. During the visit, Monday Properties representatives expressed a willingness to renovate and transform the space, if necessary, for the next tenant.

And while momentum seems to barreling ahead to transform the space into Arlington’s next major technology center — and potentially Rosslyn’s answer to 1776’s Crystal City investment — Burick said that the location at 1101 Wilson Blvd could return to its roots, when it was the former home of Newseum.

“We’ve had two groups that have been looking at turning it into a museum,” she said in a phone interview this morning. “Because of the grouping of other things in Rosslyn with Arlington Cemetery and the Marine Corps Memorial, we’re really starting to see Rosslyn have more tourism potential, particularly once CEB Tower delivers with its observation deck.”

All parties involved are looking forward to the unique space — with multiple theaters, high ceilings and an outdoor terrace — becoming something that can generate money for the county, rather than lose it. But the County Board’s decision has also left some wondering what the future of arts funding through taxpayer dollars will look like in Arlington.

Mitten said the cultural affairs department is developing a strategic plan that will address just that.

“There’s a belief that there is a clear nexus between our investment in cultural affairs and the arts and economic development,” Mitten said. “The part of the story that’s missing at the moment is how much is enough and in what way is the most effective in order to have it be a real investment and not just an expense.”

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Budget Approved: Artisphere to Close, Tax Rate Stays Steady

The Arlington County Board marks up the budget, April 16, 2015(Updated at 1:20 p.m.) The Artisphere cultural center in Rosslyn will close and Arlington’s property tax rate will stay the same under the new Fiscal Year 2016 budget approved unanimously by the Arlington County Board last night.

The $1.16 billion budget will provide Arlington Public Schools with the extra $6.2 million it sought to deal with rising enrollment.

It also will fund a new internal auditor position, a campaign promise of County Board member John Vihstadt.

Other budget highlights include:

  • An additional $1.4 million for economic development efforts, including an extra $200,000 for TandemNSI, $200,000 for tourism promotion and an extra $100,000 for the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization
  • Five new sheriff deputy positions
  • Salary supplement for the public defender’s office
  • Additional jail-based mental health services
  • An additional animal control officer for the Animal Welfare League of Arlington
  • Funding for Affordable Housing Investment Fund remains steady at $12.5 million
  • An additional $1 million for housing grants, for a total of $8.9 in housing grant funding
  • The county manager’s proposed cuts to BikeArlington were eliminated. Funding for county bike and pedestrian programs remains at $812,121.
  • A merit compentation increase for employees
  • Funding restored to the “Live Where You Work” program for county employees

Under the budget, Arlington’s real estate tax rate will stay at $0.996 per $100 in assessed value. However, due to the 4.9 percent rise in residential property assessments and a 1.8 percent increase in the water-sewer rate, the average Arlington homeowners’ tax and fee burden will rise about $281 a year, to a total of $7,567, a 4 percent increase.

“Arlington’s real estate tax rate remains the lowest in the region,” a county press release noted.

County government spending will increase 1.1 percent and Arlington Public Schools spending will increase 4.5 percent compared to the previous fiscal year.

Under the budget, the per-pupil cost of Arlington Public Schools to taxpayers will drop to $18,558 per student from $19,040 per student during FY 2015.

The internal auditor position sought by Vihstadt will require $200,000 of funding. The auditor will be independent, reporting to the County Board as opposed to existing internal auditing programs that report to the County Manager.

“The auditor, and an advisory committee, will report directly to the County Board and will focus on tightening financial oversight and deepening program performance review,” according to the press release.

The Virginia General Assembly passed a bill this year giving the Board the authority to hire an auditor. The only other positions the Board can hire directly are the County Attorney, the County Clerk and the County Manager.

County officials say they were able to balance the budget without a tax increase and find additional funding for schools and other priorities by making budget cuts elsewhere, including Artisphere.

“The Board’s most significant cut was its decision to close Artisphere, a move that will save $2.3 million in net taxpayer support for the County’s critically acclaimed arts and cultural center,” said the press release. “The County has said that the center’s failure to consistently attract a large enough audience and its ongoing need for substantial County funding put too great a burden on strained County finances. The County is redirecting $496,000 of the money saved to fund alternative arts and cultural programming across the County.”

Artisphere is set to close June 30.

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