When hundreds of well-wishers gathered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Arlington Arts Center last month, it was not just art that was being celebrated.

The ceremony also marked the dedication of the center's newly landscaped grounds at Maury Park near the Virginia Square Metro stop.

Asphalt was torn up and trees, flowers and bushes planted in their place. The $30,000 in landscaping was provided by the local chapter of the National Association of Industrial & Office Parks and represents the center's increasing success at garnering support from the business community, said Katherine T. Freshley, the center's acting executive director.

This year, about half of the center's $110,000 budget came from businesses, many of them developers building office or residential projects in Arlington.

Developers "see the arts and cultural activities as a way of marketing the community. They're very concerned about the ambiance, not just of a building but with marketing the entire neighborhood," Freshley said.

With this in mind, the center four years ago began aggressively seeking financial backing from businesses, Freshley said. A 15-member business advisory council was formed. The members "actively identify {businesses} moving into the county and help with getting access" to corporate officials, she said.

In recent years, she said, the center has received large contributions from Pentagon City Associates, developers of a shopping mall at Pentagon City, and from the May Co., the Washington Corp., the Kaempfer Co. and International Developers Inc., developers with projects in the Rosslyn or Ballston area.

Developers "are often perceived negatively, associated with traffic, density. They want to be perceived by the community as good guys," Freshley said.

Along with contributing to the community good, landscaping the Arlington Arts Center's park had a symbolic value, said Peter L. McCandless, executive vice president of the Northern Virginia chapter of the National Association of Industrial & Office Parks.

"So often we have to tear down trees," he said. "We want to plant back, to refurbish the land."

McCandless said his group, which represents more than 500 Northern Virginia developers, will undertake similar "Make-a-Park" projects in the next four years in Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William counties and the City of Alexandria.

McCandless agreed that art is growing in importance to the business community. "Developers are finding that art is good business, not only within a building but outside" in the general area as well, he said. "You don't build buildings in isolation."

The Arlington Arts Center hopes to receive increased contributions of all sorts in the next few years, Freshley said. "Our budget needs to increase to about $500,000. We would like to send our exhibitions throughout the region, to put on more ambitious exhibits and publish more catalogues."

For a decade, the center has provided studio rental space for artists, and its exhibitions have served as the proving ground for a generation of emerging Washington area artists.

There are two juried exhibitions a year. These often give artists their first chance to hear constructive criticism from the museum curators, gallery owners and critics who make up a jury, Freshley said.

Currently, 32 artists work in the bright, airy classrooms of what had once been Maury Elementary School. The building, the second oldest school in Arlington, was designated a historic landmark by the Arlington County Board in 1983.

To mark its first decade, the center is holding a two-part exhibition. The first part, running through July 26, features the work of 64 artists who have had studio space at the center at one time or another. The second part, to be held this fall, will feature works from past exhibitions.

In an essay on the current exhibition, curator David Tannous said he found fascinating "the evidence in some works of interactions among artists, subtle mutual influences in techniques, imagery and concern.

"Such small signs of artistic exchange are an indication of the kind of community that can form when artists work in one place together." Tannous is also president of the center's board of directors.

That observation does not surprise painter Larry Isham, who has had a studio in the center since it opened. "If you work at home you work in a vacuum, you don't get exchange, interplay, the sometimes harsh, sometimes nice criticism," Isham said. "Even though we are a little jammed in, we are going to be more productive" because of the interaction.

The opportunity to watch the progress of local artists is what draws Alexandria resident Alice M. Quint to the center. "I've been coming from the time they started. They have some talented people," she said. "It's wonderful to see how they've grown."