Arlington is home to 25-30 arts groups and hundreds of visual artists. Among the many genres represented are theatre, dance, symphony, chamber music, children’s theatre, opera, public art and visual and media arts.
Over the last 5-7 years, the number of groups and performances have been decreasing and the County has been losing most of its cultural presence – primarily due to the inadequate indoor performance space for arts groups, as well as for musical bands and other entertainment events. Venues have closed (i.e., Artisphere, Rosslyn Spectrum, Iota) over the last several years for varied reasons, and the remaining ones are primarily part of larger venues (mostly middle schools) or “found” spaces, meaning the base building was not initially designed to accommodate a theater use. Therefore, they lack the ambiance that audiences expect when going out for the evening. As a result, several professional Arlington arts groups have already left the County to perform in DC and elsewhere, and many others are considering doing so because of this lack of quality performance space.
Sample rendering and spec diagram of the venue we are envisioning.
Embracing Arlington Arts is therefore embarking on an ambitious initiative to work with stakeholders, arts patrons, arts organizations, and community leaders to facilitate having a theater built at another existing structure site. This plan assumes no management requirements by the County, no County staff expenses, and all operating expenses being paid by the theater organization itself. It also assumes a major capital campaign by Embracing Arlington Arts, arts organizations and stakeholders, as well as developer contributions, to build out the exterior and interior of the venue.
But this entity is not only going to be a “Thursday through Sunday” venue. Our vision includes not only theater productions but also live music, play readings, receptions, artist exhibitions, improv, meeting place for County groups, a hub for the arts, camps, and so much more. We believe this will be a game changer in the County not only in the arts arena, but also as a community partner and meeting/events venue for a whole host of organizations. Our goal is not to send residents to DC, Maryland or other Virginia counties for their entertainment, and therefore their dining out choices. There is wonderful talent (and restaurants) here in Arlington, but without a suitable venue, we will very likely lose even more professional arts organizations as they pursue opportunities elsewhere.
We know this is a challenge, but we also recognize that Arlington is a great County that can be made so much better with the addition of a performing arts/live music venue that can benefit so many of our residents through the continued incorporation of arts and culture in their everyday lives, as well as help scores of local restaurants who depend on Arlingtonians spending their time and dollars in Arlington, and not in DC and Maryland.