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.
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.