Dozens observe dance performances from Urban Artistry on the opening day of Artisphere in 2010. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Arlington’s money-losing Artisphere should close in June because it has failed to draw enough visitors or supporters to break even after years of government subsidy, County Manager Barbara Donnellan said Wednesday.

The recommendation to close the Rosslyn arts center, a move that members of the County Board said they would probably support, would save about $2.5 million per year and eliminate the jobs of 12 full-time and 20 part-time employees. Donnellan said the Arlington government would attempt to find other county jobs for those employees.

The proposal is the latest example of fiscal caution by the county government, which last month canceled plans for two expensive streetcar projects after a leading streetcar critic was reelected to the County Board.

To continue operating, Artisphere “would require substantial ongoing tax support,” Donnellan said. “In the current fiscal environment, I cannot advise we continue.”

She said she would outline options for the board on what to do with the 56,000-square-foot facility, former home of the Newseum. Choices include trying to sublease the property or attempting to return it to its owner, Monday Properties. About six years remain on the lease.

The Artisphere, seen November 2014 in Rosslyn, Va., used to be the site of the Newseum. (Courtesy of Artisphere)

Artisphere has exhibited works by Frida Kahlo, Andy Warhol and many lesser-known artists. The county spent $6.7 million on renovations in 2010 and pays the operating budget, including about $1 million per year for HVAC, electricity, cleaning and upkeep.

Jose Ortiz, Artisphere’s founding director, said attendance at the venue’s shows and exhibits rose 11 percent this year to 71,000 visitors. He called Artisphere an artistic success and said the center has received “critical acclaim locally and nationally.”

“Our financial stability was based on the county providing ongoing support,” Ortiz said. “Without it, we could not survive.”

Initial attendance projections for the center were much more ambitious, however, and the actual number of visitors did not come close.

“Smart communities take risks, and smart communities know when to re-evaluate their investments and make change,” Donnellan said.

The decision to halt funding would not be final until the county’s fiscal 2016 budget is passed in the spring. But a majority of the five-member board said Wednesday that they supported Donnellan’s decision.

Public spending on Artisphere has been criticized by fiscal conservatives in Arlington for years. The issue received renewed attention when County Board member John Vihstadt (I) made public spending on capital projects a major focal point of his election campaign.

Vihstadt was elected in April to fill an empty seat on the board and easily won a full four-year term in November. He took his second oath of office Wednesday. In a brief interview, he said he thought Donnellan’s recommendation was the right decision.

“I think the county manager made a cold, calculated and reality-based decision that the Artisphere would not be successful without a large continuing subsidy,” he said.

Other board members said they would work to make sure Rosslyn is not left without an arts or cultural component.

Mary H. Hynes (D), who is set to chair the County Board in 2015, said the building was not well-suited for an arts center. She said the closure would be “a repositioning, not a retreat.”

On another issue, the County Board unanimously approved a $5 million, low-interest loan for Signature Theatre after two hours of discussion during a meeting that stretched past 11 p.m. Board members emphasized that the money would be a loan, not a grant, and that it is to be repaid over 19 years. The loan will help the theater’s financial situation and give the county sole control of the theater’s building and assets.