Getting to Know...James Bailey

Getting to Know...James Bailey

James Bailey moved to Reston in 2001, and since then, has promoted the artists' community in the local area. A photographer himself, Bailey is on the board of the Reston League of Artists and enjoys spending his time at the National Wildlife Federation with his family and with his experimental-style photography called, "Rough Edge Photography." James Bailey is this week's People Profile.

Number of years in the community? I moved to Reston in December of 2001 from New Orleans.

Family: My wife is Gene Marie Bailey. We have a 5-year-old son named James Edward John Luther Thomas Bailey.

Education: I attended school at Mississippi State University and the University of South Alabama where I majored in business.

Current job/primary occupation? I'm currently employed as director of development for the Dominican Retreat in McLean.

Achievements: I developed and implemented a major capital campaign for the construction of the new Ohr-O'Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi. This museum is designed by the world-renowned architect, Frank O. Gehry. Unfortunately, most of the new museum — which was scheduled to open in the spring of 2006 — was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In addition, I worked as director of development for two years at the Greater Reston Arts Center. I was principally tasked with designing and implementing the capital campaign for the new GRACE facility at Reston Town Center. Since moving to Reston, I've also been fortunate to have won many awards for my experimental style of photography that I call "Rough Edge Photography." In 2004 I was awarded the prestigious Albert J. Turbessi Award for my photograph "Woman at the Tomb" by the preeminent national art critic Dr. Donald Kuspit at the 47th Chautauqua National Exhibition of American Art.

Activities/interests/hobbies? I'm a huge film buff. I also enjoy reading and visiting museums. My most passionate hobby is researching my family's genealogy. I'm also involved with various historic preservation projects in my home state of Mississippi.

Favorite local restaurant or place in the community? I'm honored to be on the Board of the League of Reston Artists (LRA). And one of the benefits of being on the board of the LRA is that our monthly meetings are held at Jasmine's Cafe at Lake Anne. Jasmine's Cafe is without a doubt one of my favorite restaurant's in Reston for a sit down conversational dinner.

What are your community concerns? What are some ideas you have on ways to improve your community?

Reston is absolutely a unique community in every respect. We Restonians have our own sense of identity. Those of us who love this community clearly see the incredible array of challenges that confront Reston with respect to its future. I am more convinced than ever that Reston needs a strong and unified voice speaking through its democratically elected town representatives who will advocate for the will of its people to be realized regarding the implementation of creative solutions to the challenges this community faces today and will face tomorrow.

I think the Reston Association has for the most part done an admirable job managing the commonly owned assets of this community. However, the challenges Reston faces are more than the RA can manage, being that the RA is in essence a home owner's association and not a democratically elected government. The services that are needed in this community exceed the abilities, or even the legal responsibilities, of a homeowners association.

Reston faces many of the same challenges that any small growing town faces. Presently, in my opinion, we are not fully equipped to deal with these developmental issues at a responsive and proactive local governmental level. Critical decisions regarding Reston's future are being made, in certain cases, at the county level. For example, it is my honest opinion that the redevelopment of Lake Anne is an issue that should be spearheaded and controlled by elected Reston town officials, not by the Board of Supervisors of Fairfax County. The people of Reston, especially those who live at or near Lake Anne, know what they want for the future of their neighborhood. I believe that their vision for the redevelopment of Lake Anne could be better communicated, and implemented, through the voice of a democratically elected Reston Town Council representative.

Perhaps no issue is more important than the challenge to provide affordable housing in Reston. The cost of housing is simply beyond the reach of many people who live and work in Reston. This is an issue that we must develop some creative solutions for if we truly want to have a diverse population of residents, otherwise the future is one in which only the wealthy can afford to buy property here. ... Reston received a rather rude wake-up call regarding the negative political costs of its non-incorporated status during last year's debate on the extension of the Metro to Dulles. Because of its non-incorporated status, Reston was barely consulted on this monumental project that will have long lasting implications for the future development of this community. All of us who follow this issue saw the power and influence that the Town of Herndon was able to bring to the table in these discussions. Reston deserves to have a similarly strong voice heard in these matters.

And, as I have argued in the past, being that I am so deeply involved in the arts with my own work, as well as by serving on the Board of the Leagues of Reston Artists, I'm very well aware of the wide array of benefits that exist for an incorporated town to take advantage of with respect to grants, funds and appropriations to help promote the arts within the town. The population of Biloxi, Mississippi, (even prior Hurricane Katrina) was less than that of Reston. Yet as small as the City of Biloxi is, it managed to develop a wide range of cultural opportunities for its citizens, including developing the local, state and federal resources needed to build a major museum that was attracting international acclaim, thus helping to solidify Biloxi's reputation as being a major tourist destination.

All one has to do is take a very close look at the recent U.S. Census Bureau statistics regarding the demographics of Reston to fully understand and appreciate the challenges to Reston's future. The demographics of Reston have changed dramatically since its early days. Reston is becoming a younger community with respect to its growing and diverse population, not an older one.

My honest opinion is that Reston needs new, younger and more diverse blood involved in its critical decision making organizations, like the Reston Association and Reston Community Center. Younger people with fresh ideas will help inspire Reston to start thinking outside of the box about the approaches to the challenges that confront us as a growing community.

My wife and I own a townhouse in a cluster that has a large percentage of young professionals. I've had many conversations with my neighbors and have found it interesting that many of them feel totally disconnected from some key community organizations. There's also an obvious disconnect that exists between certain influential community organizations and the growing young population of bi-lingual home owners and renters. This is another major issue that must be recognized and addressed if Reston truly wants to reflect their voices in its future decisions.

It's not the newest idea, of course, but I strongly believe that Reston's future will be better secured by incorporating and finally bringing the democratic concept of one person one vote to bear on the critical issues that we need to be engaged in an open dialogue about in this community ....

What brought you here? My wife and I after having our son very much wanted to live in a smaller community that represented the values that are inherent in the philosophy articulated by Reston's founder, Robert E. Simon. For many years prior moving to Reston we visited this community when vacationing in the D.C. area. When we sat down to plan our move from New Orleans, Reston was the first choice.

What community "hidden treasure" do you think more people should know about? I'm almost reluctant to tell anyone about this place because there's never anyone there on Sunday evening when my family and I visit. But we love the natural habitat trail and waterfall at the National Wildlife Federation in Reston. They have a beautiful sustainable designed building that sits on seven acres of land that has been allowed to return to its natural state. Just don't go there on Sunday evening. We like to have to ourselves!

When you were younger, what did you want to be when you "grew up?" I wanted to be a successful business person and an artist. Some people think those two goals are mutually exclusive. I don't, and never have. I'm profoundly grateful to Reston for allowing me the opportunity to become involved in the development of its new arts center. I'm also grateful to Reston for being so supportive of my art. The inspiration for my art may be my life experiences in New Orleans and Mississippi, but it was Reston that encouraged me to share my art with the world.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope that I'll be appointed by Mayor Robert E. Simon as the first Minister of Culture and the Arts for the Town of Reston. Seriously, I hope to become even more involved in helping Reston secure its future and expand its cultural opportunities. Reston is my family's home now, especially after the awful events of Hurricane Katrina and the massive resultant destruction in New Orleans. Whatever dreams we had of one day returning to New Orleans are now probably moot. We are committed to living in Reston for hopefully many years to come. I have a deep and sincere desire to see Reston preserve its unique identity, while at the same time addressing the critical challenges that it faces as it continues to grow.

Personal goals? I hope to continue to pursue the opportunities to share my art with others in this community, as well as in the metro D.C. region. I want to do all I can to help grow the cultural life of Reston through my board participation in organizations like the League of Reston Artists. I also have a goal of once again working in Reston. I don't mind the daily drive to McLean, but Mr. Simon really has the right idea with Reston being a community where one can "live, work and play." I've got the live and play thing under control. I do miss the working in Reston part, though!