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Karen Pence Champions Art Therapy Initiative, Discusses Arlington Ties in WERA Interview

Second Lady Karen Pence appeared on Arlington community radio station WERA yesterday (Tuesday), to discuss her art therapy initiative and the family’s Arlington ties.

Pence launched “Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART” earlier this year, and discussed the program with Janet Kopenhaver, chair of citizens group Embracing Arlington Arts.

It looks to emphasize the qualifications of art therapists, educates people about its benefits and shows young people that it could be a viable career path. Pence said it can be easy to forget that art therapists are highly qualified medical professionals.

“Their profession is really misunderstood,” she said. “People just think they do arts and crafts.”

Instead, the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is an “integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individual, families and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”

Pence noted that it is not focused on the art as a finished product, but a way for people to deal with their issues. And it can benefit anyone, including those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, children with cancer, those with eating disorders and autism, among others.

“What we find when clients work with therapists, all these feelings and emotions they’ve been dealing with seem to come out of their heart,” she said. “They’ll put them on paper and say, ‘Wow, I didn’t realize I was thinking that.'”

Pence said her interest in art therapy goes back years, having received a Master’s Degree in Arts Education. When her husband, Vice President Mike Pence, was in the U.S. House of Representatives representing Indiana’s 6th congressional district, she saw first-hand the benefits of art therapy at Tracy’s Kids, an art therapy program for children in Georgetown.

And when Mike Pence travels for work, Karen Pence said she looks to join the trip and find an art therapy program to visit.

After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and the Pences visited to observe and help with recovery efforts, she brought 125 pounds of clay on Air Force Two to donate to an art therapist on the island.

“If we can tag along, we’ll find something to do related to art therapy,” Pence said. “When we knew we were going down to Puerto Rico, we thought, ‘Surely we can find a block of time of an hour or so where we can find an art therapist.'”

Kopenhaver said she enjoyed interviewing Pence about her initiative, which she launched earlier this year at Florida State University. The Pence family has strong connections to Arlington, as both their daughters attended Yorktown High School and were involved in its drama program.

“It was great having Mrs. Pence in the studio today to talk about the important mental health profession of art therapy, and specifically her initiative Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART,” Kopenhaver said in a statement.

Courtesy photo

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Second Lady Karen Pence to Appear on WERA Next Week

Second Lady Karen Pence is scheduled to appear on Arlington community radio station WERA next week.

Pence will join a show hosted by citizens group Embracing Arlington Arts to discuss art therapy, the group’s chairwoman said. The show will air Tuesday, December 5 at 3 p.m. and will raise awareness of the role art therapy plays as a mental health treatment, we’re told.

Pence has started a blog about her efforts to spread the word about art therapy, and posts regularly on Twitter about its positive impact on veterans, those fighting cancer and children suffering from mental illness, among others.

“I am so thrilled to not only be able to chat with Mrs. Pence, but also to discuss such an important topic as art therapy — her policy priority as Second Lady,” Janet Kopenhaver, chair of Embracing Arlington Arts, said in a statement.

According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is an “integrative mental health and human services profession that enriches the lives of individual, families and communities through active art-making, creative process, applied psychological theory and human experience within a psychotherapeutic relationship.”

The association said it can help improve cognitive functions, foster self-esteem and self-awareness, cultivate resilience, enhance social skills and reduce/resolve conflicts and distress.

Official White House photo by Allaina Parton

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Pentagon City Apartment Building Has a ‘Lifestyle Concierge’

Stephanie StudentA couple of weeks ago, a rep for Instrata Pentagon City, a high-end luxury apartment building on 15th Street S. near the Fashion Centre mall, reached out to us about a unique amenity the building offers its residents: a “lifestyle concierge.”

Having not heard of such a thing before — most local news reporters do not live in buildings with a lifestyle concierge — we asked Stephanie Student, who holds that position, what a lifestyle concierge does and why an apartment building should have one.

Here are some excerpts from that interview.

ARLnow: In your own words, what does a lifestyle concierge do?

Stephanie: As a lifestyle concierge, my job is to make residents’ lives easier! I’m here to take care of their needs, no matter how big or small, and assist wherever I can. Another big part of my job is organizing resident-exclusive events — everything from cake-decorating classes and oyster shucking to beer-tasting and fitness classes. These events and classes really help create a sense of community among residents and I’ve seen some wonderful friendships blossom between residents who had never met before but attended the same event and really hit it off.

ARLnow: Why is it important for Instrata to have a lifestyle concierge?

Stephanie: Luxury lifestyle apartments are not uncommon in most metropolitan areas, but Instrata has recognized that renters want more than just high-end finishes and nice common spaces. They also want a place where they feel they have friends and connections–a place that feels like its own “neighborhood.” By providing residents with a concierge who can act at a “go-to” for questions and assistance, and fun events that encourage interaction, they get all of that plus the more typical perks of high-end buildings.

ARLnow: What are some of your personal favorite activities in the neighborhood?

Stephanie: Pentagon Row is full of fun shops and restaurants, not to mention amazing venues and events! There’s a skating rink in the winter, 5K Fridays through the month of April, and outdoor movie nights in the summer. This August and September, the movies will be a complete run of the Star Wars series. I can’t wait!

ARLnow: What are some of your residents’ favorite events inside the building? 

Stephanie: Anything that gets their hands a little dirty and allows them to meet new people! Namely, our oyster-shucking lessons, flower-arranging classes and cake-decorating classes. These tend to be on a smaller scale and allow for the residents to have great conversations and learn a new skill.

ARLnow: What’s the average day like for you?

Stephanie: I always kick off the day by checking emails and catching up on the latest D.C.-area news. Throughout the day, I research local cultural events, happenings, and restaurant and store openings. I’m always on the lookout for new event ideas and party trends to inspire me for future resident events. When I’m not reading, researching or tending to a request, I’m working on the logistics for our upcoming events, negotiating with vendors, or catching up with residents.

ARLnow: What’s the craziest request you’ve ever gotten from a resident? 

Stephanie: Our residents tend to turn to the concierge team to assist more with research and suggestions, so I have yet to receive a wildly out-of-the-ordinary request. That said, I did have a resident who wanted a massage but insisted on staying in their apartment as opposed to popping downstairs to use the in-house massage room. Luckily, I was easily able to find a massage therapist nearby who was happy to come up to the apartment and tend to the resident.

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Meet Your Neighbor, the Food Stylist

In the latest installment of the county-run Arlington Virginia Network’s “Food for Thought” segment, host Katie Greenan interviewed local resident Lisa Cherkasky, who has made a 25-year career out of preparing food to be photographed.

Cherkasky has an eclectic set of tools for making food look good, from spraying Armor All on bread to prevent it from drying out to using glycerin to make meat look juicy.

She also runs a local food blog, Lunch Encounter, which recently profiled the Waffle Shop on Mt. Vernon Avenue in the Arlandria section of Alexandria.

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Donnellan Takes Back the Reins

Just four months after her service as interim county manager ended, Barbara Donnellan has accepted the county board’s offer to become Arlington’s first permanent female county manager.

Donnellan made her first public appearance as the newly-appointed county manager at a grand opening ceremony for the county’s new Department of Human Services building. She was greeted by county employees and members of Arlington’s state legislative delegation, including Del. Patrick Hope and Del. Adam Ebbin.

Donnellan brings 27 years of experience in county government and seven months of experience as interim county manager to the table.

When she first accepted the interim position, she says she was only interested in testing out the job.

“I wasn’t sure if it was something I wanted to do,” she said. Despite snow storms, a huge budget gap and other challenges during her short tenure, Donnellan says she came to enjoy the position.

“Toward the end of it I actually became interested in it,” she said. By that time, however, the county was concluding a long search for someone to fill the position. Savannah City Manager Michael Brown took the job, and Donnellan returned to her old post as deputy county manager.

On Wednesday, as Brown prepared his resignation letter, Donnellan was asked again if she wanted the job. She said yes.

“I’ve always had lots of opportunities to do some significant stuff, and this will allow me to continue carrying out the policies of the board, working with the workforce [to address] their needs, and giving the community the best that they can get from the government,” she said.

Donnellan says she’s looking forward to tackling another challenging budget.

“This will probably be my 28th budget in the county,” she said. “Finance is what I know. It is going to be a challenge. I think the community worked with me well last year in trying to sort through some of the issues around balancing the budget.”

“This year the market is a little bit better, and it’s not as difficult as it was going to be last year, but that’s not to say there’s not going to be a gap we’re going to have to close,” Donnellan added. “I’m going to work with my department directors, I’m going to work with the county board and we’re going to figure it out.”

County board member Chris Zimmerman says Donnellan was a natural choice to replace Brown.

“I think we’re very, very fortunate to have someone of the caliber of Barbara Donnellan here,” he said. “We could not be in better hands. Barbara is the kind of person who when we have an impossible job, she’s the one who always gets it done. I think there’s a very high degree of confidence in the person who now has the reins.”

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Examiner Details Jay Fisette’s Eating, Biking Habits

Arlington County Board Chairman Jay Fisette was interviewed recently for the Washington Examiner’s My Washington series. The 54-year-old Ashton Heights resident discussed his favorite places to eat, bike and vacation.

The interview, published on Sunday, revealed that Fisette is really, really into cycling, as transportation, recreation, and as spectator sport. It also revealed that Fisette is burning the candle at both ends at Clarendon’s Silver Diner — he goes there for late night food and for morning breakfast meetings.

When he’s not biking to work or presiding over an eight-hour-long county board meeting, Jay Fisette can also be found at Whitlow’s on Wilson. “Whitlows serves a great meal,” he said.

More from the Washington Examiner.

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An Interview with Arlington Comedienne Jessica Brodkin

Arlington clearly breeds fame. Sandra Bullock, Katie Couric, Tipper Gore — all from Arlington. And then there are the more recent famous Arlingtonians: Remy (the Arlington Rapper), and Eric Patrick (comedian/new Real World cast member).

It makes sense that comedians would want to migrate here. We’re funny. Just look at our crime reports.

We recently interviewed Jessica Brodkin, a new Arlington transplant and an up-and-coming comedienne. She’s part of an award-winning Red Dragon Improv troupe, she performs standup all over DC (see a not-safe-for-work clip here), and she’s just landed a reoccurring role on the new public access TV show “Arlington Late Night.”

ARLnow: So how do you decide whether something is funny?

Jessica Brodkin: I think there are a couple of things:

Instinctually, sometimes I write a joke and I just feel it inside: “This is good.” I also ask a lot of other comics and I test things on my coworkers, I test things on people.

It’s also usually something that’s true about me. My punch lines aren’t true, but when my set-ups are true it comes from a sincere and genuine place. So when I give the punch line, the laugh is greater because it comes from somewhere real.

I’m a performer and I want to connect with the audience. It’s important to be honest, I don’t like doing insult humor. I want everyone to feel happy.

AN: What about hecklers?

JB: I definitely have to deal with hecklers. I think the majority of hecklers are the ones that are really drunk, but you have to make fun of them to make them shut up. I had the worst heckler on Wednesday, because if you can’t put them in their place, if they won’t just settle down, you have to ignore them.

I’ve been mostly lucky that I’ve had sets that I haven’t heckled. It’s like working out — working sh–ty rooms and not getting thrown off. It makes you a better comedian.

AN: So what do you think is hilarious?

JB: My sense of humor is really personal and really dark. Hilarity is really social commentary of the worst kind and laughing at the terrible things that happen.

Last night we [Red Dragon] ended up talking about human trafficking — we were at a fruit stand, then trafficking babies in watermelons. Then we were a couple at Costco and the watermelon started crying. It’s touching on the darkest side of humanity, and the greatest part of humanity.

My improv group is three girls, and we talk about pregnancy and sex and babies a lot… things that touch upon absolutely everyone. We also like making fun of religion a lot — irreverent, but at the same time I really just love social commentary.

AN: Tell me about Ludmilla and Arlington Late Night. What inspired that character?

JB: We had two episodes and I got on the second episode. I’m of Russian descent — I’ve been making fun of Russian immigrants since I was a kid in New York. I’m in another web series with a couple of comics in New York. We created something called Uncle Vania. It’s very dark, it’s very dirty, it’s REALLY dirty, I haven’t shown my parents yet. It’s talk about sweatshops and incest and… *laughs* it’s so dark, so dark.

I just came on board two weeks ago and had three days to write topical jokes for Ludmilla.

* * *

Keep an eye out for Jessica on Arlington Late Night and standup nights around the area (she doesn’t have her own website yet, but reach out on Facebook to see her list of upcoming gigs). Arlington Late Night is premiering on Arlington Independent Media (Comcast Channel 69 and Verizon FiOS Channel 38) this Friday at 10:00 p.m.

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New County Manager Talks About the Job Ahead

New County Manager Michael Brown has been so busy with staff briefings and catch-up readings this week that some county officials say they’ve barely seen him outside his office.

Despite his busy schedule, AVN (the county-run TV operation we wrote about on Wednesday) managed to sit down with Brown earlier this week to get his thoughts on Arlington and on the job ahead. He also talked about his passion for the outdoors.

You can also see the interview we did with Brown here and here.

Residents will get their first opportunity to see Brown in person on Saturday morning, when he makes his debut at the county board meeting.

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