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Fairfax Embraces the Arts

Arts Council of Fairfax County supports local artists through grants, exhibitions and encouragement.

The local arts community has a champion in the Arts Council of Fairfax County, an organization whose mission states that it "creates and nurtures an environment in which the arts and artists can flourish."

A membership organization focused on arts support, advocacy, funding, and education, The Arts Council of Fairfax County has been in existence since 1964. Through its programs and activities, the Council, led by its president, Ann Rodriguez, ensures County residents contribute to and share in the arts.

The Fairfax Choral Society (FCS) has been the recipient of a number of the Arts Council’s grants for general operations and specific projects, according to Carrie Buddin, the executive director. FCS, the largest auditioned chorus in Northern Virginia, is a growing organization that Buddin says benefits from the Council’s guidance as well as funding. As a member and located in the same building, Buddin says FCS can count on the Council and Rodriguez, who has a "limitless knowledge of all things art."

"They act as a sounding board when we’re thinking about bringing something to the community," Buddin said.

County organizations and artists can submit grant applications to the Council. A non-profit, tax-exempt body, the Council receives its funding from Fairfax County government, corporations, state and national arts organizations and individual donors.

Nancy Purdy, a Vienna resident who attended an Arts Council luncheon on July 17, 2008 is a patron of the arts — music in particular. She and her husband support the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, which is a member organization; Wolf Trap; and the National Symphony Orchestra.

Purdy appreciates local arts, but finds there is much more emphasis on athletics in this region. She thinks it’s a shame, because "Only certain people can participate in sports; the arts are more expansive."

In September, the Arts Council produces the annual weeklong International Children’s Festival with Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. The event showcases entertainers from around the globe, including from South Korea, Bolivia and Sweden in past years.

On weekdays during the festival, fifth-graders from throughout the county attend the performances as a field trip. Jill Krynicki of the Arts Council is encouraged by the effect the performances, and subsequent meet-and-greet sessions with performers, have on the schoolchildren. "The responses we get from them, it warms your heart. ... There’s a very large possibility they haven’t met kids from these countries."

During the public days of the festival, families view lively shows and participate in hands-on activities.

Local performers can apply to the council in the spring to be a part of the festival. Krynicki, a visual artist herself, drives in from Wisconsin each year to help with the production. She is the liaison for local groups, and says the Council seeks a diverse array of performances to round out the event. "Local groups get the exposure they might not otherwise have," said Krynicki.

Arts in the Workplace is an Arts Council-sponsored program that pairs artists with businesses and county government, whose office spaces double as galleries.

Margaret Alleva of Annandale is a member artist of the Arts Council, specializing in oil and semi-abstract paintings. She praises the corporate aspect of the Arts in the Workplace program. It "enabled me to exhibit and sell some paintings in various corporate buildings throughout Fairfax County," she says. "It was a very worthwhile opportunity, providing excellent exhibition space." Those companies included Cox and the former TRW.

Supervisor Penny Gross (D-Mason) says she has had the artists’ works in her offices since she took office in 1996. At the time, she said, "We have lots and lots of white walls. ... Let’s show off some art." Since then, rotating exhibits have been in her lobby, reception area, conference and copy rooms, all available for the public to view. She is delighted with the Council’s efforts and adds, "My staff gets to enjoy a changing landscape of art."

The Arts Council also sponsors juried exhibitions, scholarships and youth competitions.