New Direction for Arlington Arts

New Direction for Arlington Arts

Arlington works to bring arts to people rather than people to arts.

Concept rendering for the Art Truck.

Concept rendering for the Art Truck. Photo contributed


The Artisphere

When the Artisphere opened in 2010, there were big plans in Arlington for the future of the arts. The Artisphere was going to be the hub of an artistic and cultural renaissance for the county. Two years after the Artisphere’s demise, the county is starting to approach the idea of an arts revival again, but with a narrower scope.

On Saturday, the County Board will review $215,810 in arts grants. According to Cynthia Richmond, deputy director of Arlington Economic Development, the funding levels are consistent with previous years. Three types of grants are offered: individual artist grants, project grants, and grants that pay for space and technical services to support an arts organization. There were 58 total grant applications, each reviewed first by a panel of art experts, then reviewed by the Arlington Commission for the Arts.

Three individual artists, Laura Ortiz, Tom Dickinson, and Barbara Januszkiewicz, are each recommended to receive $5,000 grants. Thirty organizations are recommended for grant awards, for a total of $200,810.

Josh Stoltzfus, director of Cultural Development for Arlington Economic Development, said in an email that the trend for arts in Arlington has completely flipped from the Artisphere approach.

“In lieu of one central space to bring the community to our programming, we adopted a nimbler and more mobile strategy to integrate arts and culture into the spaces where we live, work, and play,” said Stoltzfus. “The pending Arlington Art Truck, which recently garnered a $25,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, is the embodiment of this new direction.”

The grant from the National Endowment of the Arts supplements $70,000 approved by the County Board in 2016 to fund the purchase and operation of the truck during last year’s round of art grants. The Art Truck, currently being built, is one of several efforts underway to bring arts out into various Arlington communities. A booklet is being developed documenting the history of Clarendon’s Vietnamese refugee community of the 1970s and ’80s. A project is also underway to bring “meeting bowls” currently being installed at Courthouse Plaza, a bench built like a bowl that focuses on giving groups of friends spaces to sit and talk with a degree of privacy in a public space.

“Arlington Cultural Affairs is focused on bringing the arts to the community in many different settings where our citizens and patrons already congregate, including farmer’s markets, libraries, parks, unused retail space,” said Stoltzfus. “Most of these leverage the resources of our partners which include Arlington County Library (Poetry Festival, The Poet Is In), Arlington Transit (Moving Words), Arlington Parks and Recreation (events at Arlington Mill, and the free summer concert series at Lubber Run Amphitheater), Arlington Arts Center (Day of The Dead concert) and the various Business Improvement Districts and partner organizations.”

According to Richmond, these changes are reflected in the Arlington Commission for the Arts’ county-wide arts strategy plan, adopted in March. The plan focuses mainly on integrating arts and culture into existing civic spaces and being incorporated into public spaces rather than being set aside like the Artisphere.