This new column by Michelle Isabelle-Stark, Director of Arlington Cultural Affairs, offers a behind the scenes peek at the people, programs, and initiatives that have supported and nurtured Arlington’s thriving arts community for the last three decades.
June 10, 2021
The road back to normalcy has been a long one, but it is a journey made more manageable through collaboration. Partnerships between artists, community and businesses have been a hallmark of Arlington Arts work, and the creative output of these alliances is evident across all our programs this summer.
Several years ago, Arlington’s Office of Historic Preservation reached out to Arlington Arts’ Public Art unit to explore ways to mark several significant milestones in Arlington’s civil rights history through the lens of arts and culture. For the past three years, renowned Detroit printmaker Amos Paul Kennedy, Jr. has focused on recognizing the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Stratford Junior High School (2019)and the 60th anniversary of the lunch counter sit-ins (2020). Although delayed a year by the pandemic, the summer season of the Arlington Art Truck launches with A Tribute to the Desegregation of Arlington Lunch Counters , for which Mr. Kennedy has made seven letter pressed cards to honor the seven lunch counter sit-ins that took place in Arlington between June 9–22, 1960. On the anniversary of the start of the sit-ins, the project was featured by Washington’s NBC WRC-TV.
One of Arlington’s most notable events, the Columbia Pike Blues Festival, is presented by the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization (CPRO) and programmed by Arlington Arts. This year, a hybrid three-day Columbia Pike Blues Festival Weekend (Friday thru Sunday, June 18-20) combines live streamed concerts viewable online with ticketed outdoor performances. The live streamed concerts, held nightly at 7:30 p.m., are a new feature that originated from the popular “Live from The Rug Shop” series, sponsored by the Manoukian Brothers Oriental Rugs. The three concerts feature Stacy Brooks (June 18), Deletta Gillespie (June 19) and Sol Roots Band (June 20). On Saturday, June 19, enjoy your choice of one of three separate live outdoor ticketed performances in the parking lot at the Filmore Shopping Center, located at 2705 Columbia Pike, featuring Robin Kapsalis of Vintage #18 (1:00 p.m.), Cheick Hamala Diabate (2:30 p.m.) and Carly Harvey (4:00 p.m.). The venue will be cleared following each act to prepare for the next audience group. To view concerts online and to purchase tickets to one of Saturday’s three live performances, visit the Blues Festival Website.
Throughout the summer season, we hope you will explore our history, our arts-friendly neighborhood businesses and events throughout the County.
April 29, 2021
While this past year has been extraordinarily challenging for our arts community, there are exciting opportunities on the horizon. Cultural Affairs staff is very excited about the future for the arts in Arlington, especially in the Four Mile Run Valley. Thanks to a recent decision by the Arlington County Board to acquire two parcels adjacent to the Cultural Affairs building at 3700 S Four Mile Run, our community will have access to a unique public platform for all forms of cultural expression in Fall 2022.
Acquisition of 2700 S. Nelson St./2701 S. Oakland St and a Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper transformation
In its recessed meeting of April 20, The County Board approved the acquisition of the 2700 S. Nelson St./2701 S. Oakland St. property. The purchase of the property is a strategic decision that will enable long-term planning in the Four Mile Run Valley as recommended in the Four Mile Run Area Plan (2018). The building on the site will be razed, and the resulting 18,813 sq. ft. will be transformed utilizing a Lighter, Quicker, Cheaper (LQC) strategy. What does that mean?
Short-term LQC improvements are part of a larger and more permanent vision for a particular site. Think of LQC as a way to generate excitement, new partnerships, and support for long-term Placemaking efforts and projects. For this site several concepts are viable – performing arts, authentic craft markets, film screenings, festivals, and more. The core of LQC projects is that they are created with rather than for a community, collectively transforming spaces and making positive changes for everyone to enjoy. Community engagement with artists, citizens, community leaders, activists, business owners, and nonprofits will help determine what will unfold on the site.
While the evolution of the Four Mile Run Valley will include improved parks, new public art, and expanding opportunities for arts and cultural programming, Arlington County is mindful of the legacy of one of the East Coast’s most notable recording studios, Inner Ear, a current tenant of 2701 S Oakland St. Owner Don Zientara’s iconic standing in the music industry is a point of pride for Arlingtonians, and we are actively exploring a range of possible options should Inner Ear wish to continue its efforts here in Arlington. We remain optimistic about potential collaborations and hopeful that Mr. Zientara will continue to be engaged with us about any potential Arts & Industry District.
Reopening of Cultural Affairs facilities
In the meantime, staff is preparing internally to ready existing cultural affairs facilities, including 3700 S Four Mile Run, the Scenic Studio and Lee Arts Center, to ensure the health and safety of the public. 3700 Four Mile Run will be a site for camp programs of Encore Stage & Studio, Educational Theatre Company, and Jane Franklin Dance beginning June 21 with stringent capacity limitations, entry and exit processes, and cleaning requirements.
I know I speak for all staff when I say we can’t wait to get back to being present, on the ground, in our facilities, and planning for all the exciting programming to come!
March 25, 2021
For years, Arlington’s arts and culture community has been a key contributor to establishing and broadening the County’s identity as a collection of unique and livable smart-growth neighborhoods. From a renowned and award-winning collection of contemporary public art to nationally acclaimed performing ensembles such as Regional Theatre Tony Award recipient Signature Theatre, the arts are central to creative placemaking.
Earlier this month, I represented Arlington as a panelist for “Shaping the Future of Entertainment, Arts and Culture,” a Zoom panel organized by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC). Moderated by Barbara Coffee, Economic Initiatives Director for Tucson, AZ, my fellow panelists were Abby Kurin, Executive Director for the Tulsa Office of Film, Music & Culture, and Jill McMillan Palm, Executive Director, Business & Arts Council of Greater Nashville.
IEDC is a non-profit, non-partisan membership organization serving economic developers. With more than 5,000 members, IEDC is the largest organization of its kind. Economic developers promote economic well-being and quality of life for their communities by creating, retaining and expanding jobs that facilitate growth, enhance wealth and provide a stable tax base.
I can report that Arlington is well positioned to exploit the accelerating trend of hybrid forms of arts and entertainment products enabled by technology advances, which has resulted in paradigm shifts in distribution and monetization models. To reframe an old saying, “Necessity is the Mother of Innovation” and during the COVID-19 pandemic we saw extraordinary innovation from local artists and arts organizations across all artistic genres, adapting to instant changes in consumer behavior. Arlington Arts will continue to reposition its assets and processes to support these innovators.
And for in-person live events, Arlington itself can be considered a network of performance platforms, with its abundance of public spaces and public plazas. You can see this in each of our three Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) – Ballston, Rosslyn, National Landing, and the Clarendon Alliance and Lee Highway Alliance. From the Rosslyn Jazz Fest at Gateway Park to the “Turn Up the Love” winterlong outdoor pop-ups in National Landing, our presenting partners create exciting programming to enliven our public realm.
Look for some exciting new public art to be delivered this year, including the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square in Green Valley, designed by Walter Hood, recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, and a future public art piece in Ballston designed by Olalekan Jeyifous. Both artists are featured in the exhibit Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America at MoMA in New York.
February 25, 2021
“Why, I had no idea you did all of that!”
It’s a familiar phrase to all arts administrators. There may be a painting from the local gallery on the wall, tickets on the table to the community theater performance with your child as the lead, or a flyer on the refrigerator for the annual jazz festival. But often, we may not connect the dots between those varied activities and the County support that makes all those activities happen.
In this new column, the Director’s Cut, I’ll be offering a behind the scenes peek at the people, programs, and initiatives that have supported and nurtured Arlington’s thriving arts community for the last three decades.
Arlington Cultural Affairs is the official local arts agency (LAA) of Arlington County, one of 4,500 found throughout the U.S.A., providing artists and arts organizations with services and resources, and residents, businesses, and visitors with programs and public art. This designation gives us access to federal and state funds and private philanthropy to support the arts. For example, our Arlington Art Truck mobile artist-in-residence program was launched in 2018 with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). At the center of everything we do is the artist. We connect artists to the community, reflecting the diversity of Arlington.
But we don’t do this work alone. We partner with the business community, other County agencies, regional partners, artist associations, and philanthropic organizations. And we are fortunate to have a partnership with the Arlington Commission for the Arts, who serve as a conduit to the community.
Want to get connected? Looking for ways to be more involved in your arts community? Attend a meeting of the Arlington Commission for the Arts (ACA)! The ACA advises the County on policy and program development, oversees the grants and public art programs, advocates for the arts in Arlington and acts as a liaison between the community and the County. Arts Commission members are appointed by the County Board. The Arlington Commission on the Arts holds a public monthly meeting that is now virtual, so it’s easier than ever to become involved in the Arts in Arlington. Visit the Arts Commission’s webpage for all the information you need to participate.