A band that formed at Yorktown High School in Arlington is now a Grammy winner.
SOJA, also known as Soldiers of Jah Army, won the Grammy for Best Reggae Album for their 2021 release Beauty in the Silence, following two prior nominations in the same category. The awards aired last night on CBS.
The band has received international acclaim while maintaining its Arlington roots. SOJA performed on the Tonight Show in 2012; it also performed one of the last shows at Whitlow’s in Clarendon last summer.
Not everybody was happy with a reggae band from Arlington winning out over notable Jamaican nominees like Spice and Sean Paul.
“The win marks the first time an all-white Reggae band has won the award and the third time a non-Jamaican person or group has won in the Reggae category’s 37 year history. During the acceptance speech, SOJA paid tribute to Jamaica, the homeland of Reggae,” reported BET. “However, the announcement did not appear to sit well with music fans who took to their social media platforms to air out their frustration.”
SOJA, meanwhile, thanked fans via social media “for all your years of support” yesterday, prior to winning. After winning, frontman Jacob Hemphill expressed more gratitude.
“We wanna thank all our influences when we were growing up. Starting our reggae band was kind of our dream and the only thing we wanted to do. And then one day people started coming to the shows,” Hemphill said, as quoted by BET. “To the founding fathers of reggae music into the island of Jamaica, you inspired us all. Give thanks. One love.”
Photo via @sojagram/Instagram
Local GOP Supports NAACP’s Caucus Call — “We agree with the NAACP Arlington Branch when they exclaim ‘holding a partisan caucus outside the general election schedule leads to voter confusion and thus undermines voter engagement… and candidate recruitment,’ and we support the NAACP’s strong recommendation that the ‘ACDC cease its School Board caucus and endorsement process…'” [Arlington GOP]
New Mahjong Speakeasy in Pentagon City — “Scott Chung, the restaurateur behind Bun’d Up, was chatting with fellow chef Andrew Lo not long ago about how to best make use of the back room of his Taiwanese gua bao eatery in Pentagon City. Chung had a vision for a dive bar. Lo suggested a hub for mahjong… The end result is Sparrow Room, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar and dim sum restaurant at Westpost (formerly Pentagon Row) that opens Thursday, Jan. 27.” [Arlington Magazine]
ACFD Rolling Out Telehealth Pilot Program — “Hospitals and emergency crews are stretched thin across the region, which has Arlington County turning to telehealth to help. Paramedics will still respond to 911 calls, but the new pilot program will give patients with less serious emergencies the option of skipping the trip to the emergency room and seeing a doctor through a screen instead.” [Fox 5]
Arlington Church Gets Grand Organ — “St. George’s Episcopal Church is slated to formally present Northern Virginia with an extraordinary and lasting musical gift, a magnificent $1.2 million pipe organ designed by world-renowned organ builder Martin Pasi. The grand instrument, to be used in public concerts as well as for congregational services, is described by Pasi as ‘unique in the Northern Virginia area and comparable to the best in Europe.’ And potentially, it could be making music for the next three centuries.” [Sun Gazette]
Lunar New Year Celebration at Eden Center — “Through February 6th, Eden Center will celebrate the Lunar New Year (called Tet in Vietnamese) with traditional lion dances, music, special dishes, and other activities. Like Japan, Korea and Taiwan, Vietnam follows the traditional Chinese lunisolar calendar, which assigns each year to an animal in the Chinese Zodiac. This year, the year of the Tiger, promises passion and tumult, according to astrologers.” [Arlington Magazine]
It’s February — Today, Feb. 1, will be mostly sunny, with a high near 40. Sunrise at 7:13 a.m. and sunset at 5:30 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 47. [Weather.gov]
More Huge Covid Testing Lines — “This is the current situation at VA Highlands Park #COVID19 testing center! How do they expect people to preemptively get tested if that means standing in the bitter cold for hours?” [Twitter]
Libraries Run Out of At-Home Tests — “And Arlington libraries are out of tests, less than an hour after doors opened. No more tests until at least after Jan. 1.” [Twitter]
Arlington Band Gets Another Grammy Nod — “When the nominations for the Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday, featured among the artistes up for the Best Reggae Album is the American band SOJA. The band was nominated for their seventh studio album Beauty in the Silence which was released on September 24 on ATO Records. It is not their first time to the party having been nominated on two previous occasions for their 2017 project Live in Virginia and Amid the Noise and Haste released in 2015.” [Jamaica Observer]
Teen Arrested for Armed Robbery — “The victim was walking in the area when he was approached by the two juvenile male suspects. Suspect One allegedly brandished a firearm and demanded the victim give them his belongings, while Suspect Two stole his backpack, cell phone, wallet and car keys. The two suspects then fled the scene on foot. A description of the suspects was broadcast and a short time later, officers located Suspect One in the area of S. George Mason Drive and Columbia Pike. During a search of his person incident to arrest, officers recovered the victim’s belongings, as well as a firearm.” [ACPD]
Our Holiday Wish — Despite being repeatedly cited as a source on Wikipedia, ARLnow does not currently have its own Wikipedia entry. The online encyclopedia frowns upon you creating a page for yourself, so our holiday wish is for someone to see fit to finally create one that briefly tells our story.
It’s Winter — It’s officially winter, after yesterday’s winter solstice. On the plus side, the days will only get longer and lighter from here on out. Today will start cloudy in the morning before becoming sunny in the afternoon. It will be breezy, with a high of 45. Sunrise at 7:23 a.m. and sunset at 4:50 p.m. Tomorrow will be clear throughout the day, with a high of 42 and a low of 27. [Capital Weather Gang, Darksky]
As the region creeps back closer to normal, and with the holiday season now upon us, in-person performing arts are making a comeback.
Local theaters are once again welcoming back audiences for an assortment of concerts and productions.
If you’re interested in seeing a show and gaining some cultural enrichment while sitting among fellow humans, below are a few Arlington options to consider over the next few months.
When: November 2 to January 2, 2022
Where: 4200 Campbell Avenue in Shirlington
Safety Precautions: Proof of vaccinations or a negative test are required to attend a live, indoor performance at Signature Theater. Masks are also required at all times.
Details: In-person theater is back at Signature Theater with an all-new production of the iconic musical Rent.
“RENT is a musical about love, loss and community,” wrote director Matthew Gardiner in the press release. “After this past year where we’ve all felt isolated and disconnected, reopening Signature’s doors with this story about beautiful warriors and agents for change who found each other amidst unimaginable loss feels incredibly resonant.”
When: November 19-21 & December 3-5
Where: Gunston Arts Center, Theater 1 at 2700 S. Lang Street
Safety Precautions: Masks are required for everyone in the audience, including staff and students, except for children under the age of two. Concessions will only be available by pre-order and patrons must eat and drink outdoors.
It’s four days before Christmas and a very special present has gone missing. Help come-to-life book characters solve the mystery and save the day. Enchanted Bookshop Christmas for all ages that’s 90 minutes including intermission.
When: November 27 to December 26
Where: 1800 S. Bell Street in Crystal City
Safety Precautions: All audience members over the age of 12 are required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test along with an ID. Children under 12 are not required to provide proof of vaccination or a negative. Masks are required at all times and concessions will not be sold during the performance.
Details: This is a modern re-telling of the classic magical tale of “a striking clock, a glass slipper, and a brave young woman who dares to pursue her wildest dreams.”
Synetic Theater kept active throughout the pandemic by streaming performances and doing outdoor theater earlier this fall.
Known for wordless physical theater, this performance is family-friendly as well as appealing to non-English speakers due to the fact that there’s little dialogue.
When: December 1 to 19
Where: Gunston Arts Center, Theater 2 at 2700 S. Lang Street
Safety Precautions: Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test are mandatory for entry. Face coverings must be worn at all times while in the building.
Details: This autobiographical one-man show from one of America’s most acclaimed playwrights, August Wilson, stars William Newman, who some might know as the Chief Judge of Arlington’s Circuit Court. This isn’t Newman’s first starring role on the stage, either.
The performance deals with mature themes and is not suitable for all ages.
When: December 2 to December 5
Where: Kenmore Middle School at 200 S. Carlin Springs Road
Safety Precautions: Attendees 12 years old and over are required to show proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test within the past three days. All attendees are required to wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status. Fully vaccinated dancers over the age of 12 will not be wearing masks while performing.
Details: This BalletNova’s first live, in-person performance in nearly two years. This rendition has all-new choreography, sets, and costumes “that are sure to make this year’s production our most magical yet,” artistic director Matthew Powell writes ARLnow.
“There are also a few fun surprises in store, but we can’t give away all of our secrets,” he notes.
Tickets can be purchased at the door or on the website. The production is suitable for all ages.
When: December 18
Where: Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington at 4444 Arlington Blvd
Safety Precautions: All patrons must be fully vaccinated, wear a mask at all times, and capacity will be less than 50% to allow patrons to spread out.
Details: A holiday concert featuring “star soprano” Sharon Christmann joining the ensemble and performing the favorites.
A streaming option will be available for those who don’t feel comfortable attending in person. This performance is family-friendly.
When: January 15 to 30, 2022
Where: Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre at 125 S. Old Glebe Road
Safety Precautions: Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours. Audience members must wear masks at all times as required by Arlington County.
Details: For the long-running community theater company, this William Shakespeare comedy is its first show back at Thomas Jefferson Community Theater. This past fall, the Arlington Players had an in-person, outdoor performance at Lubber Run Amphitheater.
A Midnight Summer’s Dream is family-friendly and open to all ages.
Know of any other upcoming performing arts shows in the area worth considering? Let us know in the comments.
Grand Opening for Big Rosslyn Development — “Real estate developer Penzance welcomed Arlington County officials to the grand opening of The Highlands, a mixed-use project in Rosslyn at the top of the hill on Wilson Boulevard. The Highlands, a 1.2-million-square-foot development, consists of three high-rise residences — named Pierce, Aubrey and Evo — with views of the D.C. area and several amenities. ‘We’re proud to be here today welcoming these 890 new residences, exciting retailers, Fire Station 10 and the beautiful Rosslyn Highlands Park.'” [Patch]
Reward Boosted in Ballston Murder Case — “The Ratigan family is announcing an increase in their reward fund from $25,000 to $50,000 for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the suspect(s) responsible for Scott Ratigan’s homicide on January 17, 2020. Detectives continue to follow-up on any and all investigative leads in this case and remind the public that any information, regardless of how small it may seem, could be the tip that leads to justice on behalf of Scott and the Ratigan family.” [ACPD]
Retired Police K-9 Dies — “With great sadness, ACPD announces the passing of retired K9 Drago, a 14 year-old old German Shepard, Belgian Malinois mix. He loyally served Arlington from 2008 to 2019 as a patrol and narcotics detection K9. We kindly ask that you keep him and his handler in your thoughts.” [Twitter]
APS Getting Ready for Kid Vax Approval — “APS continues to work with the County on plans for rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to students ages 5-11 once it is approved, which we anticipate very soon. Once approved, we will inform the community about the availability of doses and how to schedule appointments. Arlington County Public Health anticipates holding clinics and scheduling vaccinations by appointment, hopefully by mid-November. We will keep families informed as new information is received.” [Arlington Public Schools]
Man Seen Stealing GOP Signs — “We’ve received reports of stolen yard signs, and — while we appreciate your updates — almost none of those are actionable because the tipsters don’t provide us any physical/visual evidence. But kudos to one resourceful sleuth, who provided us with these fairly clear photos of a guy taking down Youngkin signs in Arlington last night.” [Arlington GOP, Twitter]
In Defense of Audrey’s Age Answer — “Apparently what happened is that the paper wanted candidates to fill out online questionnaires, and the computerized program didn’t allow respondents to skip the ‘age’ question. So Clement wrote in a younger figure as something of a protest in requiring candidates to answer a question she feels is inappropriate. From this, the Post tried to make a big deal. Turns out the Posties, as is often the case, missed the context. Clement wasn’t lying to them, as they contend. She was f*cking with them. A big difference.” [Sun Gazette]
Arlington Artist Performs on NPR — From National Public Radio: “The Tiny Desk is back… sort of. The first concert recorded at Bob Boilen’s desk since March 2020 is 2021 Tiny Desk Contest winner Neffy!” [Twitter]
It’s Thursday — Today will be partly sunny, with a high near 65, getting progressively cloudier throughout the day. Sunrise at 7:31 a.m. and sunset at 6:11 p.m. Tomorrow (Friday) will be rainy and windy, with storms and flooding possible. Expect a high near 63.
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.
“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.”
Neffy, née Mecca Russell, tells ARLnow she drew on her homecoming experience during the pandemic, after living in New York City for about five years.
“Returning had me get in touch with my roots for the first time in half a decade,” she said. “It was almost like, ‘Will this environment accept me in the same that it did when I was younger, after being away for so long?'”
She found that Green Valley not only accepted her, but proved to be a well of inspiration to draw from. The 24-year-old singer-songwriter’s ballad about the meaning of home was chosen from thousands of entries to NPR’s contest, which selects an emerging artist to perform at the vaunted “tiny desk,” joining the likes of some very notable musicians, including Mac Miller, Wu Tang Clan, Demi Lovato, Justin Bieber and Lizzo.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was in so much shock and disbelief,” says Neffy about how she felt after hearing she had won. “I’m still kind of in shock and disbelief, to be quite honest.”
She says she has always been musical, known to sing around the house as a child. Neffy wrote her first song at 13 years old and, shortly after, picked up a guitar.
When she got older, went to college and decided to pursue writing and performing professionally, she realized her craft required a lot of sacrifice — and it led to some self-doubt.
But winning the Tiny Desk contest in 2021, after entering submissions in 2018 and 2020, validated her choice to pursue her craft.
“This experience has given me the chance to really feel full and express myself completely as an artist,” Neffy says. “And that alone has taken so much weight off my shoulders because that means I’m allowed to be an artist.”
She said writing and performing “Wait Up” allowed for that self-reflection and gave her an outlet for some of these feelings.
“I wrote this song for myself… because it was almost like a very cathartic therapeutic experience for me to write the song,” she says. “It was something that my soul definitely needed.”
To get herself in the right place, she says she spent a lot of time in her backyard as well as in and around Arlington’s green spaces, including gardens, nature centers and trails.
“Those [places] really are the foundation of who I am,” Neffy says. “[The song] was also a weaving of my mother’s love, my family’s love and us being outside in our backyard and having memories attached to all of those spaces.”
Right now, she’s primarily performing virtually due to the pandemic but plans on taking her talent to venues in the D.C. area soon.
While she’s currently residing in Green Valley, Neffy expects that she will soon head off on a new adventure. Writing “Wait Up” taught her that leaving will be okay, and that her home will always be here in Arlington no matter where her ambition leads her.
“By the time the song gets to the bridge, I am certain that, yes, home will always be there, whether it’s a physical manifestation or a spiritual manifestation that lives inside of me,” she says. “No matter where I go in the world, whether it’s Japan or who knows where, home is going to always live inside of me no matter what.”
Dave Grohl Rocks Local Studio — “Dave Grohl doesn’t seem terribly interested in taking a day off. Shortly after the 9:30 Club announced the Grohl-led Foo Fighters would play a surprise show Thursday, the former Nirvana drummer reunited with D.C.-based punk rockers, at Inner Ear Studio — the legendary and soon-to-close Arlington, Virginia, recording studio owned by Don Zientara.” [WTOP]
Fmr. Fire Chief on Arlington’s 9/11 Response — “‘It was truly an all-hands-on-deck endeavor,’ Schwartz said at the historical society’s annual banquet, held Sept. 9 at Washington Golf & Country Club. ‘We’re all in this together. There’s not a single agency or even a single jurisdiction that can handle this by themselves.’ Schwartz pointed to the county’s then-fire chief, Edward Plaugher, for his work building relationships with agencies like the FBI. Plaugher ‘was ahead of his time’ in being concerned about terrorism.” [Sun Gazette]
Night Paving at Busy Intersection — “Nighttime paving continues overnight this week at the Langston Boulevard (Lee Highway)-Glebe Road intersection improvements project… lasting into Friday, Sept. 17.” [Twitter]
The celebration of jazz, now in its 21st year, begins this Wednesday and will span three weeks. There will be pop-up performances throughout Rosslyn featuring food trucks, beer and wine, restaurant deals and giveaway prizes.
The event, organized by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, is free to attend but reservations are encouraged to secure a spot.
Starting this Wednesday, bands and soloists will perform during the Rosslyn Farmers Market at Central Place Plaza (1800 N. Lynn Street), as well as at 1401 Wilson Blvd Park and the Continental Beer Garden (1901 N. Fort Myer Drive).
Planned “pop-up” performances include the following.
- Wednesday, Sept. 1: Crush Funk Brass Band (Central Place Plaza, 1800 N. Lynn Street) from 4:30-5:15 p.m.
- Wednesday, Sept. 1: Crush Funk Brass Band (1401 Wilson Blvd Park) from 5:45-6:30 p.m.
- Wednesday, Sept. 15: Cristian Perez (Central Place Plaza, 1800 N. Lynn Street) from 5-7 p.m.
- Thursday, Sept. 16: Kingman Island Orchestra (Continental Beer Garden, 1901 N. Lynn Street) from 5-7 p.m.
On Thursday, Sept. 9, the BID will host a Jazz Supper Club at Amuse restaurant (1121 19th St. N.) from 5:30-9 p.m. The reservation-only event includes a prix fixe menu, a complimentary themed cocktail, themed giveaways and a live performance by Akua Allrich.
Guests will be seated in two time slots — 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Reservations can be made through Amuse.
The festival culminates on Saturday, Sept. 18 with performances at Gateway Park (1300 Langston Blvd):
Around the park there will be food trucks serving hot dogs, wings and carnival-themed sweets, Salvadoran food and the flavors of New Orleans. Beer and wine will also be available for purchase.
Attendees can also dine at select local restaurants with a 10% discount. Participating restaurants currently include Continental Beer Garden, Toryumon and Vitality Bowls, but the list is subject to change.
Check-in for the final day of performances begins at 12:15 p.m. To access Gateway Park, attendees will need to enter through the middle entrance along Langston Blvd (formerly Lee Highway).
Public parking will be available at the Atlantic Parking Garage on N. Moore Street between 19th Street N. and Langston Blvd for a flat fee of $5 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., but space is limited.
(Updated 12:30 p.m.) A shuttered Vietnamese restaurant between Courthouse and Clarendon may be converted into a music-based childcare center.
Rock and Roll Daycare is requesting Arlington County approve child care as a use for the site, which comprises about 4,391 square feet of unused, ground-floor restaurant space at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Cleveland Street. Rock and Roll Daycare offers music-based Montessori instruction to infants, toddlers and preschool children, according to the company’s legal representation, land use lawyer Nick Cumings.
The company is eyeing the former location of Minh Vietnamese Restaurant, at the base of a five-story office building at 2500 Wilson Blvd. The building is lined with other ground-floor retail and has 189 parking spaces, wrote Cumings, from the firm Walsh Colucci, in a letter to the county dated February.
“The Applicant is a family-run daycare provider in Massachusetts that is seeking to establish its presence in the D.C. metropolitan area,” Cumings said. “Rock and Roll Daycare… provides a unique music and arts program, international cultural education, and self-directed learning programs tailored to each child.”
The daycare will provide five classrooms: one for preschoolers and two each for toddlers and infants, Cumings said. There will be eight to 10 staff members and up to 58 enrolled children. Classes will be held year-round, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
An outdoor play area about 995 square foot in size will be fenced in and contain play equipment, he said.
Approval “will bring a unique and much-desired child care option to Arlington County while continuing to activate the corner of Wilson Boulevard and North Cleveland Street,” Cumings said.
The request is one of five site plan applications that will be heard at a County Board meeting this fall. After the August recess ends, the County Board will begin meeting again on Saturday, Sept. 18, but a spokeswoman for the Department of Community Planning Housing and Development said she expects it will go before the board in October.
Arlington arts organizations may have lost as much as $10 million in 2020 due to the pandemic, but they were able to get by with help from friends of the arts.
Many arts groups in the county reported losing 41-60% of their expected income, according to Embracing Arlington Arts, a group of local residents who work toward bolstering the arts in the county. But the arts organizations survived on a combination of government and private grants, generous locals and virtual performances.
“Most arts groups had no earned revenue,” said Janet Kopenhaver, the founder of Embracing Arlington Arts. “While they were offering these virtual things, you can’t charge what you would normally charge for a ticket. You had to depend on your donors and the donors came through.”
The National Chamber Ensemble, which sold season tickets for virtual concerts, said Zoom and donations from patrons helped the group stay in tune.
“We had wine and cheese receptions over Zoom with the audience,” said the ensemble’s artistic director and first violinist Leo Sushansky. “Everything balanced each other out because virtually a whole family could watch with one ticket, but people who didn’t live nearby like in England or New York could attend performances also.”
Arlington-based Synetic Theatre’s Managing Director Jason Najjoum said the theater also received generous donations.
“Our individual donors continued or increased their support, which says as much about the work we do as the Northern Virginia/Greater Washington community we call home,” Najjoum said. “We were able to keep our staff fully employed, and even added a couple of team members.”
Groups accessed the county’s annual arts grant program, small business grants from the county, and the more-competitive state and federal arts grants funding, Kopenhaver said. Arts groups could also cash in on federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Najjoum said Synetic relied heavily on PPP funding to create a custom streaming website and app.
“None of this would have been possible without significant government support,” he said. “It was hard won by countless lobbyists and advocates, but the local, state and federal government really stepped up and provided the support we needed.”
Amazon contributed too, donating to several area arts organizations, including Synetic.
“We were able to support the acutely affected freelance arts worker class through an artist relief program that provided $60,000 in support to 32 arts workers,” noted Najjoum.
But artists are still uncertain about what the future holds for them in Arlington.
“The question remains: with government support ending, will ticket sales come back strong enough to replace it, especially given that our upfront production expenses will also be up? Producing theater has always been very expensive,” he said. “This will only work at the bottom line if audiences and donors increase their support going forward.”
Although many arts organizations weathered the shutdowns, a perennial issue facing these groups has resurfaced: space.
“We need a cultural center — a vibrant, busy venue. It would be a game changer,” said Kopenhaver. “We are losing arts groups because of lack of venue. It’s a critical issue.”
A few have already left because they cannot perform in middle schools, which she said is where most perform — away from transit, restaurants and other walkable amenities.
Embracing Arlington Arts is working with developers to create a flexible space in an area with more amenities that can accommodate arts audiences.
“We fear, if the venues keep dwindling, there will be nowhere to perform,” Kopenhaver said. “At a middle school you can’t have receptions, you can’t have alcohol, you can’t have talk backs, which are becoming popular, because the janitors are kicking you out.”
On top of that, the child-sized restrooms are uncomfortable for the patrons, many of whom are retirees, she said.
Synetic’s venue in Crystal City has been in high demand during the pandemic, and has been used for church services, film shoots and pageants, said Najjoum. But with more performances, Synetic needs its space back.
Meanwhile, the National Chamber Ensemble has been out of a concert hall for four years, after the county-run Rosslyn Spectrum (part of the now-defunct Artisphere) was closed to the public. The ensemble now performs at Gunston Arts Center or the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, along with other performing arts organizations.
When the pandemic hit, and those venues shut down, Sushansky said patrons opened up their homes.
“We went to the private homes of our patrons and these people had marvelous instruments,” he said. Still, he added, “it would certainly be nice to have our own space. It has to be a collaboration of the county.”
And COVID-19 remains a persistent threat.
Following the lead of Broadway theaters and other local D.C. arts venues, Synetic will require proof of full vaccination, either physically or digitally, or a negative PCR test, for the rest of the year. Audiences will have to wear masks at all times, except while eating or drinking. It will continue streaming its performances.
The National Chamber Ensemble is waiting to see the guidance closer to the start of the season on Nov. 6. Sushansky said he delayed the opening in hopes that coronavirus cases will go down. He says he’s eager to resume in person concerts again, but will retain the virtual option for those who are still not comfortable coming out.
“I wanted to create something for my community, so I can’t wait for communication in-person to resume,” he said. “It’s really special performing for the Arlington audience.”
The following is a round-up of upcoming shows from local arts organizations, organized by the type of performance.