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Chess boards, interactive sculptures, ping pong tables and hammocks are just a few of the design elements residents can weigh in on for an outdoor arts space in Green Valley.

Arlington is collecting community feedback as part of the design process for the 2700 S. Nelson Street site, which formerly housed Inner Ear Recording Studios but could become a future outdoor “arts and maker space.”

The county’s second pop-up engagement event is set for tonight (Thursday) at New District Brewing, 2709 S. Oakland Street, from 6-8 p.m. to gather public input to “build a framework” for future uses of the site, according to the project website.

Residents can also take an online survey that is set to close at the end of Tuesday (May 31).

Arlington Cultural Affairs and Graham Projects, a public art and placemaking company, are overseeing the project at 2700 S. Nelson Street and its neighbor 2701 S. Nelson Street. After the end of the public consultation period, a plan for the site is set to be created this summer, while the original buildings are set to be demolished this fall.

The new site is expected to open in the summer of 2023, according to the project website.

Ideas the public can provide feedback on fall under several categories: rest, play, grow, color, design and programming. Some of the questions have a series of photos of design elements, and ask users to choose the top three that they like in the category. The survey also asks open-ended questions on programming and how the design could “celebrate the arts and industrial culture and history of the community.”

Funding for creating a new space is yet to be determined. Jessica Baxter, spokesperson for the county, said “the funding amount is dependent on future programming activities” and the money is set to come from the operating budget of Arlington Cultural Affairs and “other potential funding sources.”

An aerial view of the 2700 South Nelson Project site and the surrounding county-owned properties (via Arlington County)
An aerial view of the 2700 S. Nelson Project site and the surrounding county-owned properties (via Arlington County)

Arlington County acquired the two parcels of land last year for $3.4 million. The outdoor space would be next to the county-owned Theatre on the Run venue and tie into a larger arts and industry district along Four Mile Run. This new district will run from west of S. Nelson Street to Walter Reed Drive, according to a vision outline published by the county’s Arts District Committee in 2017.

Local organizations such as the Green Valley Civic Association have criticized the county’s decision to tear down the recording studios. GVCA’s Vice President Robin Stombler said “losing a small, yet significant, arts-related business is antithetical to this vision” of an arts and industry district, in a letter to the county last June.

This proposed space will be near the recently renovated Jennie Dean Park and the Shirlington Dog Park, according to the 2018 Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan adopted by the county. That plan also called for “fostering the growth of arts uses in the future.”

The report by the Arts District Committee suggested that the new arts and industrial district should keep the “industrial tone” of the area, offer “a mix of entities,” such as galleries, woodworking and live music, along with creative street furniture and lighting to unify the area. It also suggested establishing a nonprofit to manage the district’s finances.

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Arlington Festival Of The Arts crowd from 2016 (Courtesy Howard Alan Events)

The Arlington Festival of Arts is coming back to Clarendon later this month

The annual free, outdoor arts festival is returning to Washington Blvd on April 23 and 24 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will cover several blocks, with an entrance at the intersection of N. Highland Street and Washington Blvd.

The festival was canceled in 2020 due to Covid concerns and the 2021 version was pushed to September. So, this year marks the festival’s return to spring for the first time since 2019.

There are set to be over a hundred local and national artists selling their wares at the show. All artists were “hand-selected by [an] independent panel of expert judges,” a press release notes.

“Whether your passions run to sparkling jewels and one-of-a-kind paintings, masterfully crafted glasswork, or an art deco sculpture, you are sure to find it during the free, two-day event,” the press release says.

There will also be a “juried, first-class outdoor art gallery,” for attendees to peruse.

Pets on a leash are welcome, festival organizers say, adding that “ample” parking will be available in Clarendon.

While the Arlington County Police Department has not yet announced any no road closures, it probably can be expected that parts of Washington Blvd will be closed during event hours. Typically, local authorities urge drivers to avoid the area around the closures and take public transit to the event.

A number of annual Arlington events are marking their return this spring and summer after several years of scaling down or cancelling such events due to Covid. That includes last month’s DC Tattoo Expo in Pentagon City, May’s Ballston Quarterfest Crawl, and the yearly “Arlington Reads” series, which is back to being in-person through the spring and summer.

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Maybe it shouldn’t come as a surprise that there are similarities between being a judge in a courtroom and an actor on stage.

“It’s all really about trying to understand that all human beings are complex,” Judge William T. Newman, Jr. tells ARLnow. “They are not all good and they are not all bad.”

Newman is a judge, an actor, and one half of a legit Washington power couple. He’s the long-time Chief Judge of Arlington County Circuit Court who’s presided over some of Arlington’s most well-known cases — as well as a veteran stage actor who’s appeared in several local productions over the years. In his dual roles, he’s known for his authoritativeness, clarity, and booming voice.

But this month the multifaceted Newman is doing something he’s never done before: starring in a one-man show.

The judge is portraying the legendary playwright August Wilson in the autobiographical How I Learned What I Learned. Produced by Arlington’s Avant Bard Theatre and staged at Gunston Arts Center, performances will be running through Dec. 19.

Program for August Wilson’s How I Learned What I Learned (via Avant Bard)

“It’s quite a challenge,” Newman says about being the solo performer on stage. “It’s you just there. It’s the raw essence of who you are up there.”

He notes the difficulty in holding the audience’s attention, avoiding becoming one-dimensional, and being able to shift tone on a dime.

“It’s trying to set different levels. Some of it is funny, some of it is sad,” he says. “You have to be ready to do the next thing, which may be totally the opposite.”

How I Learned What I Learned, published shortly before Wilson’s death in 2005, is an autobiographical look into the writer’s life and what it meant to be a Black artist in the 20th century. Wilson wrote the lead role for himself, which provides another unique challenge for Newman.

“August wasn’t an actor. He was a writer. So, in a sense, it’s trying to do this without overdoing it,” he says. “He’s a story teller and I’m trying to tell his story.”

Despite much of the play taking place in the mid-20th century, there’s plenty in the material that remains very relevant today. Citing the Black Lives Matter movement and last year’s protests over the killing of George Floyd, Newman calls Wilson’s work “prophetic” in that it deals with inequality and the country’s inability to cope with its history.

August was really talking about how we need to come together as a community, as both Black and white,” he says. “To look at each other and not be as wary of each other.”

Newman notes that he completely agrees with Wilson’s assessment that we are “victims of our history.”

This isn’t Newman’s first show with the three-decade-old Avant Bard Theater (it was previously known as the Washington Shakespeare Company). In 2017, he starred as Oedipus in the theater’s production of The Gospel at Colonus.

Judge William T. Newman in “The Gospel at Colonus” (Photo by DJ Corey Photography)

This is his first time back on stage in about two years, however. Like it is for many local performing arts organizations, this holiday season is a greatly-anticipated return to performing in front of live audiences.

While Newman is very much looking forward to it, he admits he forgot how much it can take out of him both in terms of time, focus, and energy. Acting is about bringing life experiences to a role, he says, which can be exhausting.

For Newman, some of those life experiences come from the courtroom, where he hears cases and listens to people profess their innocence all day long. He says his acting and engaging in the arts brings “a sense of humanity” to his day job.

In Wilson’s writings, there are plenty of “shady” characters, but Newman knows those characters come from real life.

“There’s a human element to everything that they do… It’s part of what goes on in life,” says Newman. “These are real people, who do these real things, and say these real things.”

How I Learned What I Learned runs Thursdays through Sundays, from Dec. 1-19 at Gunston Arts Center, Theatre Two (2700 S. Lang Street). This article was funded by the ARLnow Press Club and first appeared in Saturday’s club newsletter.

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A look inside Inner Ear Studios in Shirlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Once the epicenter of D.C.’s punk scene, Inner Ear Recording Studios it is set to be razed by Arlington County to make way for an outdoor entertainment space.

The new open space, comprised of two parcels of land — 2700 S. Nelson Street and 2701 S. Oakland Street — would be part of the county’s efforts to implement an arts and industry district in Green Valley.

Arlington Cultural Affairs says a community engagement process exploring temporary uses for the site could begin later this fall or, more likely, in early 2022. 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.

“The exploration of outdoor activation space as a short-term possibility for the site is a direct result of our conversations with the surrounding community,” Arlington Cultural Affairs Director Michelle Isabelle-Stark said. “Bringing the arts outdoors and into the community is a low-cost, high-impact way to reach a broader and more diverse audience as we continue to explore the needs of the surrounding community.”

The outdoor space would tie into the Theatre on the Run venue, used by a number of Arlington-based dance and theatre ensembles, she said. And it would support existing programming, such as New District Brewing Co.’s outdoor beer festival, Valley Fest, as well as other cultural events.

Isabelle-Stark added that there’s an equity component to the open space.

“As the County continues to explore ways to address long-standing equity issues as it pertains to arts and culture opportunities, the addition of expanded outdoor performance space allows us to continue to present the arts outside of traditional brick and mortar venues and directly engage with the community,” she said.

So, after many years of recording bands including the Foo Fighters, Fugazi and Minor Threat, studio owner Don Zientara has until Dec. 31, 2021 to pack up the gear and the memorabilia before the building is demolished.

Crumbling cinder blocks and communication 

Before the county agreed to acquire the building, Zientara told ARLnow he was at a crossroads: move the studio or retire. At 73, retirement was an option, and on top of that, the building was decrepit and recording sessions were down due to the pandemic. The county acquisition merely expedited that decision.

As soon as the building is demolished, the county says it’ll park its mobile stage there and start hosting outdoor performances, festivals, markets and movie screenings. Isabelle-Stark says South Arlington needed an outdoor arts venue — a community-generated idea. She told the Washington Post that the acquisition saved the property from being sold to a private developer for a non-arts-related development.

As this unfolded, the Green Valley Civic Association, a longtime champion of reinvestment and an arts district, criticized the county for the acquisition.

“It is curious for the county to spend millions to purchase and demolish a building, but state that intended cultural events will be provided in the remaining lot only if funds are available,” GVCA First Vice President Robin Stombler tells ARLnow.

At least the arts district could pay homage to Inner Ear, she said.

“Losing a small, yet significant, arts-related business is antithetical to this vision” of an arts and industry district in Green Valley, she wrote in a June letter to the county. “As the county takes a step in support of the district, it should recognize what is being left behind.”

She suggests naming the county’s mobile stage “Inner Ear Stage.” In addition, she said Zientara had indicated willingness to sell some music equipment to the county, which she recommended be used for a new recording studio in Green Valley for musicians and music educators.

“There has been no response to date,” she told ARLnow.

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Arlington’s Inner Ear Recording Studios is secure in its place in music history, no matter what happens next.

The venerated recording music studio tucked away on S. Oakland Street in the Green Valley neighborhood, near Shirlington, is where some of the region’s most iconic punk and rock acts have recorded.

Fugazi, Minor Threat, Bad Brains, and, one of the biggest acts in rock, the Foo Fighters, all have plied their trade here in this nondescript, gray building that sits between a brewery and a used tire shop.

There are first pressings of albums recorded there hanging on walls, memorabilia strewn about, and equipment new and old line the studios. The place looks lived in, likely a product of numerous all-nighters and decades gone by.

Some have called it the Abbey Road of Arlington, comparing it to the famed London studio that the Beatles recorded in.

But owner Don Zientara balks at these comparisons and accolades. For him, Inner Ear is home, where he’s been recording music for the last 31 years.

“Sure, I’ll take it but I don’t know” he tells ARLnow. “I just do the work and do the best we can.”

This piece of Arlington and music history, though, will soon come crumbling down.

Earlier this year, Arlington County bought the property that Inner Ear has called home for a generation. The $3.4 million sale was part of an agreement made in June 2019 between the county and the property owner. The plan is to demolish the buildings there, including the recording studio, to make way for an arts and industry district, including space for festivals, markets, movie screenings, and concerts.

Arlington Cultural Affairs director Michelle Isabelle-Stark told the Washington Post that they were essentially saving the property from being bought by a private developer that would put a “self-storage in there.”

Zientara tells ARLnow he’s “all for that” plan and doesn’t seem all that phased about the recording studio’s impeding physical demise. The building, with a leaky roof and dull gray exterior, itself isn’t in great shape, he admits.

While a music studio would certainly fit into an arts district ethos, Zientara — who has a background in electronics — doesn’t think the county would be up for managing one.

“It takes a lot,” he says. “You have to keep it running, keep it working, keep all of the components working, which means a lot of repair and maintenance.”

The county says that Inner Ear has until the end of the year to vacate the premises. Zientara said he doesn’t know when they are actually leaving. Meanwhile, he’s tying up loose ends, moving equipment, and recounting memories.

Last month, (local) rock icon Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters stopped by to record with Northern Virginia-based punk pioneer Scream.

“Yeah, [Grohl] came in. Had some hot dogs and hamburgers,” Zientara says, sounding not all that impressed. “He played some timbales… there’s a lot of people that come through. When you stick around a long time, that happens.”

When asked about his favorite memory here, Zientara says it’s like asking “what’s your favorite breakfast?,” as in every memory is a good one.

“Is it pancakes? Is it eggs? Is it huevos rancheros? A breakfast burrito? All of it is good, just really good.”

Zientara isn’t necessarily done yet, though. While Inner Ear will no longer exist in its present place or form, he’s starting the search for other locations.

“I want a house, garage, whatever. Anything,” he says. “Some place that’s set up… a storefront costs more. Plus, it attracts attention. I don’t need that. Studios don’t want attention.”

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Morning Notes

Inner Ear Records Its Last Track — “For the neighbors who first pushed for an arts district, it’s a cruel consequence of their idea — particularly because they wanted to complement, not end, Zientara’s longtime presence on South Oakland Street… ‘Losing a small, yet significant, arts-related business is antithetical to this vision,’ Robin Stombler, acting president of the Green Valley Civic Association, wrote in a letter about Inner Ear to county lawmakers earlier this year.” [Washington Post]

ACFD Rescues Worker in Ballston — “Our Technical Rescue Team responded for an injured individual located several stories below street level. Utilizing a crane on-site for access, the team packaged the individual into a stokes basket to bring topside to an ambulance for transport to an area hospital.” [Twitter]

APS Hires New Head of HR — “The Arlington School Board has appointed Dr. Dashan Turner as the new Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources. Dr. Turner is currently the Superintendent of Colonial Beach Public Schools (CBPS). Dr. Turner brings 20 years of experience in education to Arlington Public Schools.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Route 29 Gets Its Own Print ‘Zine’ — “Arlington Arts and the Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development are pleased to announce the release of a zine that brings the history, stories, and character of Langston Boulevard to life through illustrations by artist Liz Nugent. Created as part of Plan Langston Boulevard, the zine also celebrates the corridor’s new name after John M. Langston.” [Arlington County]

Covid Cases Falling in Va. — “The surge of the Delta variant of COVID-19 is noticeably waning in Northern Virginia and the rest of the state, according to new data from the Virginia Department of Health. Average new daily cases reported in Northern Virginia are down about 12% in the past week, to a seven-day average of 413, although that is still more than double the average on Oct. 1, 2020, before any vaccine was available. Statewide, the seven-day average of new daily cases has fallen 14% in the past week.” [InsideNova]

Nearby: Seven Corners Ring Road? — There are few more self-evident testaments in Fairfax County to the shortsighted follies of 20th century land-use planning than Seven Corners… As part of a larger package of funding requests, the Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 14 to authorize transportation staff to seek $94.8 million from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for the first phase of a “ring” road that will eventually connect the west side of Route 7 to Wilson Boulevard.” [Tysons Reporter]

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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.”

Challenges ahead 

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.

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Morning Notes

Here Comes the Next Cicada Generation — “Cicada nymphs have started hatching during the past week. They’re the offspring from our recent cicada swarm, and they’ll rain down from above for the next few weeks, with numbers totaling in the billions… wearing a hat in the woods is a good idea for the next few weeks. Just in case you walk under a tiny, divebombing nymph.” [Capital Weather Gang]

Rent Rising in Arlington — “It was upended during the worst of the COVID crisis, but the Arlington apartment-rental market continues roaring back to life, according to a data analysis by Apartment List. With an average rental rate of $1,962 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,375 for a two-bedroom unit, Arlington’s month-over-month rental rate in August grew 3.6 percent from July, compared to a 2.6-percent increase nationally, ranking the county 22nd among the nation’s 100 largest urban areas.” [Sun Gazette]

Unusual Robbery in Crystal City — ” At approximately 11:26 p.m. on July 29, police were dispatched to the report of a robbery by force. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim observed an undisclosed amount of cash on the ground and collected it in an attempt to return it to its owner. The unknown male suspect approached the victim and attempted to take the money from his hands. The victim began to walk in the opposite direction and entered a nearby business, where Suspect One followed him and was joined by two other male suspects. Suspect One successfully took the money from the victim’s hands and all three suspects fled from the business in a vehicle.” [ACPD]

County Covid Testing Location Closing — “The #COVID19 mobile testing unit at Lee Community Center is officially retiring today, after administering nearly 15,000 tests throughout the pandemic. If you need a test, visit one of our three locations, open daily from 11 AM – 7 PM.” [Twitter]

Community Pantomime Performances — “As it prepares to resume in-person performances at its Crystal City venue, Synetic Theater will be headed into the community with a series of free public performances of the family-focused ‘The Miraculous Magical Balloon.'” [Sun Gazette]

Long-Distance 9/11 Walk Kicks Off — From the Arlington County Fire Department: “We were honored to host the kickoff for [the Tunnel to Towers Never Forget] Walk. The over 500 mile walk for CEO Frank Siller is meant to honor the heroism of first responders who lost their lives on 9/11.” [Twitter, Yahoo News, Twitter]

Reminder: Vote in This Week’s Arlies — Have a favorite real estate agent for selling your home? A favorite home renovation company? Let us know by the time voting closes at noon tomorrow. [ARLnow]

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Don Zientara, owner of the legendary Inner Ear Studio — long the seat of Arlington’s punk rock scene — is at a crossroads.

This Saturday, Arlington County is set to consider buying two parcels of land near Shirlington — 2700 S. Nelson Street and 2701 S. Oakland Street — and the warehouse that sits on it, which houses Inner Ear.

The warehouse, which is also home to a Ben & Jerry’s catering outfit and part of the Arlington Food Assistance Center, is old and structurally worn down, he says, and county documents indicate it will likely be demolished to make way for an arts and industry district along Four Mile Run.

Arlington County previously announced its plans to one day buy the building, but Zientara said no specifics were laid out as to when he would have to relinquish his studio. Now, however, the county has set a deadline: Dec. 31, 2021.

“I could retire at this point,” he said. “I’m weighing a lot of options. Closing it down is probably a strong one… It all depends on what we want to do. I’m not ready, really, to move the studio.”

The business is picking up “slowly, very slowly,” since the pandemic started. Musicians anticipate live music opportunities this summer and want to have a record or a downloadable song to “get things going,” Zientara said.

Zientara has been recording for more than 30 years in his basement and the Shirlington location. The long list of those who have recorded at the hole-in-the-wall studio includes the Foo Fighters, Fugazi and Minor Threat.

“I’m sorry to see it go, but that’s the way that it is,” Zientara said. “So I’m OK with it — it’s just the natural evolution of things. You can’t stop progress. I hope what they do have is something that can complement the arts in the county.”

That is the county’s plan.

The purchase would “fulfill multiple goals of the Four Mile Run Valley Area Plan, the Public Spaces Master Plan and the County’s Arts and Culture Strategy,” according to a county report. “The property is uniquely positioned to host a variety of diverse programming such as musical, dance, and theatre performances, and a multidisciplinary arts festival, anchored by a weekly outdoor ‘Valley Market.'”

County staff said the 18,813 sq. ft. of land could be used for the following uses as early as summer 2022:

  • An outdoor market, similar to Eastern Market in DC, and inspired by the county’s holiday markets and Made In Arlington pop-up events.
  • A location for the county mobile stage for musical, dance and theater performances.
  • An outdoor movie screening spot, “possibly curated for audiences not otherwise being served.”
  • A space for county-sponsored multidisciplinary arts festivals, supporting “a diverse range of artistic and cultural expression.”
  • A parking lot for when the space is not accommodating the above uses.

This sale would culminate a nearly two-year agreement between the County Board and the building’s owner, South Oakland Street, LLC. In June 2019, the county agreed to one day purchase the property for $3.4 million on the condition it made three annual, non-refundable, payments to South Oakland Street to delay the final sale for up to three years.

For the last two years, the County Board opted to make the yearly payments. Now, county staff is advising the Board to buy the property. Staff also recommend that the county give tenants until Dec. 31 to relocate.

AFAC will not be moving far. The organization, with its main building at 2708 S. Nelson Street, is temporarily leasing the additional space while it renovates a warehouse next door, which it purchased last year.

“The building was in serious need of renovation which we began in January of this year,” AFAC Executive Director and CEO Charles Meng said. “Once our renovation is completed in September of this year we will be vacating 2700 and moving back to our renovated warehouse.”

Photos (23) via Google Maps, photo (4) via Arlington County

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Morning Notes

Arts Group Pushing for New Venue — “As part of its recently adopted strategic plan, [Embracing Arlington Arts] plans to use the coming three years to build community support for a performing-arts venue that would include a black-box theater and ancillary classroom and office space. Efforts would also be made to identify a site and start raising funds.” [InsideNova]

APS Changing Student Camera Policy — “In response to challenges teachers are experiencing engaging students with cameras off, we have adapted our policy regarding the use of cameras during instruction time, based on input we have received from teachers, staff, parents, the Distance Learning Task Force, and advisory committee members. We are asking teachers to encourage students to turn on their cameras during synchronous instruction and while directly engaging with peers and staff.” [Arlington Public Schools]

Spotlight on Arlington Man’s Heroism — “A must read about Arlington’s Paris Davis, the former publisher of VA’s Metro Herald. His heroism in 1965, while commanding a Special Forces team in Vietnam, seems worthy of the Medal of Honor. But those who served with him say the Pentagon kept losing the paperwork.” [New York Times, Twitter]

Local Nonprofit’s Work Highlighted — “Mohammad Ahmed, 30, gave up working as an Uber driver in March for fear of infecting his wife, 3-year-old son and two elderly parents who live with him. When he couldn’t pay the rent or electric bill for their two-bedroom apartment in Arlington, a local charity funded mainly by taxpayer dollars stepped in.” [Washington Post]

Metro Reducing Rail Service — “Metro this week began reducing Metrorail service during peak commuting hours because of low usage while saying it will boost Metrobus service as new commuting trends emerge during the coronavirus pandemic. The transit agency referred to the changes as a way to ‘normalize’ rail service.” [Washington Post]

Local Economy Expected to Grow — “Greater Washington’s economy will rebound in 2021 as Covid-19 vaccinations become more common and the weather warms up, according to a new regional economic forecast released Friday. That means 3.5% growth in the gross regional product in 2021, a sharp rebound from the 2.9% drop in 2020. But the region will only see a full recovery in 2022, with 4.1% projected growth in the local economy.” [Washington Business Journal]

Many Office Workers Will Stay Remote — “Working in D.C. will continue to look different for the greater part of this year due to the coronavirus, a new study shows. Employers expect less than a third of their employees to physically be in the office in the first quarter of this year, but by the fall, they expect 75% of their staff to be back, according to a study.” [NBC 4, Washingtonian]

Flickr pool photo by GM and MB

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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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