As a 39-year resident of Arlington County, I oppose Artisphere’s closing. I am happy to pay the taxes that underwrite Arlington’s investment in schools, libraries, public safety, parks and other infrastructure. In particular, I don’t begrudge at all the fact that Artisphere costs me about a nickel a day. In fact, I consider that nickel to be among the county’s wisest investments, generating benefits for our entire community, now and for generations to come.
Rosslyn was on the cusp of becoming great; indeed, Artisphere is a world-class arts facility much like the Cité de la Musique in Paris, albeit smaller. Arlington’s support of Artisphere has been an immense credit to our community. Closing it because Artisphere is “not paying its way” is an argument that would apply equally to Arlington’s splendid public library system, another temple of culture in which Arlingtonians also take justifiable pride.
With more than $200 million in Arlington’s “rainy-day fund” and sufficient funds to study and construct a lavish aquatics facility duplicating those newly constructed at our high schools, it’s beyond puzzling that funds aren’t available for Artisphere. Closing Artisphere for the benefit of a much narrower segment of Arlingtonians is akin to cutting school art and music programs to buy fertilizer and new bleachers for a high school football stadium.
After learning from its rocky start, Artisphere is well on course now. It would be beyond a tragedy — indeed, it would be nothing short of a travesty — to leave its closure as the departing county manager’s and board members’ legacy just when Artisphere seems to be gaining traction, given its recent series of sold-out performances.
Dom La Nena, an internationally acclaimed musician who recently performed one of those sold-out shows, receiving several standing ovations, told me: “It’s really a shame to close the Artisphere. What a beautiful venue. I loved so much to play there.”
Rosslyn was poised to consign its much-derided “Concrete Canyon after 5 p.m.” persona to the past. But there is now a crisis in filling Rosslyn’s office space with top-notch employers — office vacancies in Rosslyn have soared to almost 30 percent, The Post reported in September. Closing Artisphere will be a giant step backward to an era that I’m sure we’d all like to leave behind.
Finally, Arlington claims to be “a world-class community and tourist destination” — a claim it could no longer make in good faith by closing Artisphere.
I urge the county board to reconsider and to fund Artisphere and retain its outstanding staff for an additional year, leaving the decision as to whether to continue it to the new board and county manager, giving appropriate consideration to Artisphere’s recent record in meeting and exceeding expectations.