The arts landscape in Arlington has changed dramatically since the Arlington Commission for the Arts awarded $77,000 in 1992 to 14 arts organizations. The number of groups has exploded. In fiscal 2011 the arts commission gave 31 arts groups $249, 000.
Recognizing the absolute growth, and the accompanying challenges for the commission and the resident artists, the commission conducted a report to see what steps to take to ensure the diversity and health of the arts scene over the next 20 years.
Arlington Arts 2030, the report now in draft form, will be discussed at two public hearings. The first is June 11 at Artisphere from noon to 2 p.m. The second is June 13 at the Shirlington Public Library from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Quite naturally the fiscal health of the county and the arts groups, along with its identity as an urban center, not suburban hub, was foremost among the issues considered by the commission, which hired outside consultants to do the study.
Because of the increased spotlight on Arlington as an arts destination and the commission’s added responsibilities, the report is asking the country to reestablish the office as a stand-along department. It is now part of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources.
Funding is a prime issue. In fiscal 2011 the over all grants budget in the county was reduced by 30 percent, ending in an across-the-board reduction of 11 percent for all arts groups. The commission recommended a scheduled increase over five years to support stability. The report urged the county to restore the Challenge Grant Program, which asks the business community to support emerging groups.
The draft report is asking the county to set aside 2 percent annually for public art.
Arlington has long been a leader in finding space for its many arts projects. The groups that used county facilities were required to give the county a 10 percent rent surcharge from ticket sales and other earned revenue. The draft report wants the money directed to arts groups for facility use.
The report also recommends building an outdoor amphitheater in the Shirlington/Four Mile Run area. The report says it would not only be a regional destination, but add to the amenities the “creative population” likes.